Tibet boasts 799 vertebrate species, of which birds number 488, accounting for 40 percent of the national total bird species. Twenty-two species are unique to Tibet. There are l42 types of mammals, accounting for 32 percent of the national total; 56 types of reptiles, accounting. for 28 percent of the national total; 45 types of amphibians, accounting for 22 percent of the national total; and 68 types of fish, of which schizothorocic carp makes up more than 90 percent of the world total in terms of numbers and variety.
Some 125 types of wild animals are listed as under state protection, accounting for more than one third of the total number of varieties under state protection. Forty-five of them are found only on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, such as Tibetan wild ass, wild yak, Tibetan antelope, ibex, snow leopard, black-necked crane and bearded vulture, which are species under first-class state protection. In the Himalaya and Hengduan mountains are found Assamese macaques, Yunnan golden monkeys, white-browed, long-armed gibbons, pig-tailed monkeys, sun bears, Neofelis nebulosa (cloud-like spotted leopard), Bengal tigers, white-lipped deer, Przewalski’s gazelles, takins, Himalayan tahrs, Ciconia boyciana, golden eagles, Tetrastes sewerzowi, crimson-bellied tragopans, Chinese monals and boa constrictors, which are all also species under first-class state protection.
Some wild animals can provide fine-quality meat, skin and plumes, while most of the others, especially those listed under state protection, are valued for use in medicine and scientific research as well as for cultural exchanges with other countries. Eighteen nature reserves at the national and regional levels have been established in Tibet in order to effectively protect the biological diversity of the plateau and ensure the utilization of biological resources in a sustainable manner and a benign circle of the natural ecology.
Afterwards, with the rise of modern means of transportation, this ancient trading route which had been in operation for more than 1,000 years and played a major role in promoting exchanges between the Hans and the Tibetans began to lose its importance, and this highest and most arduous ancient trading route in human history fell into oblivion. However, interest in it began to revive in the 1990s. Field surveys by scholars have proved that the various ethnic groups, including the Hans and the Tibetans, were pioneers of this route and that the melting of the cultures of various ethnic groups along the route added a special cultural landscape to the varied natural features of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Hengduan Mountains.