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One day while patrolling, he accidently caught his foot in a steel trap. It was very painful, said Liang. The incident, however, did not put him off patrolling. It instead strengthened his resolve to patrol even more as he understood then how much animals caught in snares suffered.
Liang, 54, grew up in the Suiyang Forest Farm in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province. The area is part of the Amur-Heilong tiger landscape that straddles China and Russia.
Limited food supply“Growing up was difficult with limited food supply,” he recalled. “We ate meat only during Chinese New Year and would be very happy when my father caught a wild boar.”
Hiking in the mountain and hunting with his father were his favourite past-times, and Liang became one of the best hunters in his village.
In the 1990s, when the Chinese government enacted a law on wildlife conservation, Liang had to hand over his gun to the authorities and stop poaching.
A life-changing callTen years later, in 2004, a call from WWF-China changed his life.
“WWF-China wanted to recruit me as one of the rangers for patrolling and monitoring,” said Liang. “I felt it was so ridiculous for an old hunter to become a protector until they told me I was chosen for my hunting experience and knowledge of the mountain and wildlife. They said the switch also would have positive impact on others.”
As Liang began working with WWF, his attitude towards saving animals change.
“To save animals is to protect ourselves. For instance, without wild boar or other prey species, the tiger’s food chain will be broken. Without tigers, the natural selection of prey species will not work and the whole ecosystem will then be broken,” said the former avid hunter and father of 1.
Liang patrols the Changbaishan mountain area, the Amur tiger habitat, removing snares. “The work looks simple but it is hard and dangerous. We have to walk for at least 20 kilometers in the mountain,” he said.
Suffering a personal lossIn the winter of 2010, Liang suffered the loss of his beloved dog. Recounting his loss, Liang shared how on that day a villager told him about some people setting snares in the forest.
“I rushed to the area with my dog to stop them. When I arrived, they had left. To avoid wild animals getting trapped, I hurriedly remove the snares. After a while, I realised my dog had disappeared. I went searching for it and finally found it dead, caught in a snare. It had left me forever and it might not have understood why it was killed by humans, whom it trusted deeply as friends.”
Changing mindsetsWhen Liang’s old friends talk to him about hunting, he would persuade them not to do so anymore. “If they don’t agree, I would not befriend them anymore,” he said. Gradually, many friends and residents changed their mind about hunting. Some even gave him valuable tips on stopping poaching.
Liang still works on the frontline to protect the Amur tiger. “I understand it’s not very easy to save tigers. But I know I’m not alone in saving tigers. There are many people in the country who share the same belief and together we will save the tiger.”
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To save animals is to protect ourselves. For instance, without wild boar or other prey species, the tiger’s food chain will be broken. Without tigers, the natural selection of prey species will not work and the whole ecosystem will then be broken.