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A Ranger’s Story: We Run for Tigers and Leopards

17 january 2020

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My name is Liu Guoqing. I'm an ordinary ranger from Hunchun Bureau of Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park.

 I’m a post-90 young man dedicating my youth and passion to mountains and the earth. I chose a different path, becoming a community volunteer and ranger of wildlife protection.

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© LI Li      

Live up to my dream

The older generation have different levels of prejudice against the post-90s. Some people think we post-90s were born in honeypot, so we cannot bear any hardship or do anything great when we grow up. In addition, most of the post-90s are the only children in the families. We have the burden of supporting four parents when they get old; plus the children, we have to shoulder the responsibility of the whole family. Therefore, we may focus more on the actual material needs instead of having any ambition. However, in my opinion, even if I’m not able to accomplish much, I can still hold my original aspiration without any change.

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© CTLNP

   For life, I think I may feel different from others. I’m very independent, and I have solid spiritual supports as well as strong supporters. I work hard together with my partners for our aspirations. I feel I’m walking firmly on the earth. My steps are steady, not frivolous, and I’ve been moving forward with determination. Even if the cause I do with persistence doesn't make me much money, I still won’t give it up.

 

An impressive patrol

In Nov. 2016, the heavy snow came earlier than in previous years and lasted for three consecutive days. It covered the whole forest. However, the ranger team still had to maintain the infrared cameras. I remember on the day of Dec. 6, the team drove off before 6 a.m.. The snow was very deep, the mountain road was really tough to drive, and it was nearly 8 o'clock when we got to the foot of the mountain. That day's task was to go to three camera points on the fire tower's big bar. The highest altitude was 950 meters or so, and the round trip was 14 kilometers. It was undoubtedly the most arduous task that day.

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 © Huangnihe Forest Bureau

At the start, the snow was about 60cm deep, reaching our knees. For the two rangers, it was more energy consuming for the one leading in the front. After walking for an hour, the snow got even deeper. My teammate's legs were injured before. They got hurt when touching snow for a long time. So I had been walking in the front to lead the way for my teammate. We moved forward very slowly. We also considered whether to give up these camera points and change our way back. But we couldn’t take the self-accusation of not completing the daily patrol work. We can't miss any single camera!

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 © WWF

We tried to speed up, but we still couldn't make it. We could only see the solitary shadow of our upper body moving in the snow (the average snow depth reached one meter). After six hours of climbing, we arrived at the ridge and retrieved the data of the first camera. At that time, it was three o'clock in the afternoon. It was getting dark, and our food and water had been used up. We could only eat snow to supplement water for our body. Both of us were like a boiling pot, for the whole body exuded "heat".

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©  Guo Wenliang

Unable to take too much rest, we rushed to the second camera point. The vision began to blur gradually along the way. When we retrieved the data at the last point (camera memory card), it got pitch dark. Through the walkie talkie, we got in touch with other teammates at the foot of the mountain. They had arrived in the car, waiting for our triumph return. In the deep mountain at night, there’s fear everywhere. You don't know how many eyes are staring at you. But we had no choice but to find the way down the mountain by the weak light of a flashlight.

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©CTLNP

We overcame the fear brought by darkness and used up our energy. Relying on our skills to identify directions through the mountain shape, and using GPS to calculate the distance, even if we were in the dark, we still did a good job of recording track information. At 10:20 that night, we finally joined up with other teammates. At the moment of getting on the car, we were paralyzed in our seats and said without any exaggeration, "our underwear are soaked.". There appeared starry illusions in my eyes. I felt like lying on the thick snow and looking up at the stars; the snow was so warm. Gradually, I fell asleep. The car stumbled all the way, and no one woke me up, even though they had to get out of the car to shovel snow. It was midnight when we drove out of the mountain to the nearby town.

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© WWF

Frankly speaking, it wasn't an experience worthy of showing off. We overestimated the strength of a ranger, looked down on the obstacles of objective factors on the way, and took risks. Although we finished the task, it increased the rate of low probability accidents. In the future patrols, we will do a better job in time arrangement and schedule planning, and try to consider more objective factors. We completed the patrol task that time, and we also found wild animals photographed in the retrieved data. This is worthy of our pride.

 

I'm a champion of the Ranger Competition

In fact, there are many unforgettable experiences of field patrol. We’ve looked at tigers across mountains and passed by bears. No matter it's bitter or dangerous, we protect animals with actions. Among the ranger teams, we are confident of our abilities in the field, and our team is also outstanding in knowledge reserve as well as learning and application of software. This is not groundless. In the four years of Tiger Habitat Ranger Competition organized by WWF, Northeast Tiger & Leopard National Park Administration (NTLNPA) and the State Forestry and Grassland Administration, we won two championships. No matter the indoor competition or the field competition, we were among the best.

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© WWF

I remember in the last year’s fourth competition, the field part was very interesting. Like the popular computer game "Game for Peace", in a route, we could randomly pick a "parachute jump" location and search the nearby area (snare removal). In the course of snare removal, we also needed to complete tasks such as infrared camera deployment and recording, catching poachers and simulating law enforcement. We were ranked by the comprehensive scores of tasks completed and the number of "materials" (poaching tools) collected. Our team got #1 in the field competition.

   

In the whole field competition, there was also a live broadcasting team. Unfortunately, even though we considered the physical strength of the shooting team, we still accidentally lost them three times.

In 2020, I will keep running for tigers and leopards.