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“Everyone in the building was jumping for joy on seeing the photos,” said Gao, who leads the team of rangers at Hunchun Nature Reserve, located next to Wangqing. Both reserves are part of the Amur-Heilong tiger landscape that straddles China and Russia.
That was in April 2012 and it was the first time that camera traps had captured the elusive Amur tiger on film, giving hope to tiger recovery efforts in northeast China. The photos also provided proof of the extend of the Amur tiger’s range into the inner Changbai mountain area of the Amur-Heilong landscape.
ConfidentGao is confident of recovery efforts of China’s Amur tiger population although it means more work for him and his team. For sure they have to be more vigilant and step up their patrols to ensure the tigers can roam freely.
Currently, Gao and his team conduct routine patrol 60 times each year covering a total distance of 7,200 kilometres by car and another 450 kilometres on foot. In the past few years, they have removed up to 450 steel traps meant for hunting wildlife.
“Illegal hunting is on the decline,” said Gao, who has worked as a ranger for 10 years now. “This is due mainly to more routine patrol and enhanced enforcement as well as community outreach activities to raise awareness of the need to protect wildlife and the various policies and regulations.”
Protection and data gatheringBesides looking out for signs of poaching and other illegal activities, the rangers also help to collect data on the wildlife population and their distribution. Gao sees the two – protection and data gathering – as inseparable.
So Gao designs and plans each patrol route with this in mind. The information the rangers collect on the wildlife population is supplemented by video and photos taken by the 16 infra-red automatic cameras that have been set up in the Hunchun reserve.
“We have collected a lot of data on the Amur tiger and the Amur leopard,” said Gao. Photos of Amur leopards are more common with several being taken by the camera traps in the past months.
Proud to contributeAlthough footprints of the Amur tiger have been discovered many times in Wangqing since 2008, the photos taken in April this year are the first that a camera trap set up in the reserve has captured photos of the rare species.
Gao is proud that he and his team of rangers are also contributing to the scientific research of wildlife and the development of the Hunchun Nature Reserve.
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Illegal hunting is on the decline. This is due mainly to more routine patrol and enhanced enforcement as well as community outreach activities to raise awareness of the need to protect wildlife and the various policies and regulations.