The story of The Milu continues from Part 2 (please click here to read).
On December 10th, 1984, I was asked by professor Wang Zongyi to accompany a small group of scientists to the Great Hall of the People to meet Vice Premier Li Peng who was overlooking the reintroduction project for the Central Government. It was my first visit to the Great Hall of the People that had been built 25 years earlier to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of “new” China in 1959. I was very excited (I was incidentally the only foreigner in attendance) as we had been waiting for several months and were expecting to get final approval from the re-introduction during this official meeting.
Our small party was quickly whisked to a traditional VIP room with a U-shape set up of large armchairs. These rooms were (and are still) used for formal meetings between two delegations. The heads of both delegations sit next to each other and their respective delegations are seated according to their ranking, facing each other. The meeting was very brief and confirmed that part of the land where the Imperial Hunting Park in Nan Haizi used to be located (which had become part of the Red Star Sino-North Korea Friendship Peoples’ Commune after 1949) was going to be allocated to the re-introduction project. The approval of the Central Government was the last hurdle to pass in order for the project to materialize.
Soon after, farm workers started working on the demolition of a pig farm and a couple of tree nurseries. Simultaneously, grass was planted, nine fresh water wells were dug and a small lake cleaned up. The exact boundary of the new Milu Park was also finalized and a 2.5-meter high wall had to be built.
One day, I was very surprised to ‘discover’ around 400 People’s Liberation Army soldiers starting the construction of the wall! It took them 100 days to finish the 2.2-mile long wall. The scene was finally set for the homecoming of the Milu. In the meantime, following the green light given by Vice Premier Li Peng, Lord Tavistock directed the head deer keeper at the Woburn Deer Park to catch about 40 Milu to place them in quarantine. They would be the first batch of animals to return to China in late August 1985.
A draft agreement specifying the terms of partnership between the Marquess of Tavistock and the Milu Reintroduction Group of the People’s Republic of China was established and signed on February 27th, 1985 leading the way for the final arrangements to take place. On the Chinese side, several agencies at State and Beijing Municipal levels were involved in the reintroduction including the National Environmental Protection Agency, the Chinese Society of Environmental Science, the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, the Chinese Society of Zoology, and the Beijing Museum of Natural History.
It would take four more months to have the final agreement finalized. It was signed on July 17th, 1985 both in the UK and in China simultaneously.
The pledge to return the Milu to China made by Lord Tavistock when he was 13 years old had become a reality!