Walking in the wilderness – Chinadaily.com.cn

Ranger put life on the line while patrolling the dangerous terrain, but believes the rewards are worth the risk, Wang Qian reports.

China is home to 56 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. To find out how these natural and cultural gems still shine and continue to inspire the nation in this new era of development, China Daily has published a series of reports covering 10 clusters of sites selected from across the country. In this episode, we take a closer look at picture-perfect Jiuzhaigou’s diverse wildlife, as well as the culinary traditions of Sichuan Province.

The day starts early for Shi Xiaogang, a wildlife ranger at Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. Before six in the morning, he is all set and ready, carrying a large backpack weighing about 20 kilograms.

Typically consisting of 10 rangers, Shi’s team conducts long-range patrols, up to two weeks, in some of the most inhospitable environments on the reservation. Each year, they spend more than 200 days on the front lines of wildlife conservation.

As chief of the reserve’s Mujiangping Protection Station, Shi monitors the population of giant pandas and snow leopards, helps mitigate human-animal conflict and educates local communities. It is a difficult and often dangerous task.

Throughout his 30-year career, the Senior Ranger has frequently put his life on the line to protect the endangered wildlife of Wolong.

“In the wilderness, you have to be prepared for challenging situations, like landslides, avalanches, or even vicious wild animals,” says the 50-year-old ranger, adding that survival techniques are essential to working in the wilderness.

Covering around 200,000 hectares, Wulong is home to one of the largest remaining populations of giant pandas in China. Thanks to rangers like Shi, the reserve’s population of wild giant pandas has increased from 104, according to the Fourth National Panda Survey released in 2015, to 149, according to a DNA-based study released last year. In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that the giant panda’s status had changed from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on its Red List of Threatened Species.

Besides the “Habitat of the Giant Panda”, the reserve is widely known as the “vital gene bank”. It houses a plethora of endemic and endangered species of flora and fauna, including other famous creatures, such as the red panda, snow leopard and clouded leopard among the 121 species of mammals on record. There are also 392 species of birds.

To celebrate their hard work and contribution to protecting the reserve’s wildlife, last year, Shi’s 20-member team was honored with a Special Commendation at the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’ International Sentinel Awards.

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