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Across China: Former logger falls in love with forests in Northeast China

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-09-15 14:58
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HARBIN -- Walking on thick woody debris, Wang Daohui hears the creaks and feels the warm sunshine streaming down through gaps in tall trees. This is a rewarding moment for Wang, a forest ranger in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province.

Wang works in the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park, which spans an area of over 1.4 million hectares in the northeastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang.

"This is a Korean pine, that one is a spruce, and the one over there is a maple," said Wang, who is familiar with almost all varieties of trees in the forests.

Four decades ago, he began his work as a lumberjack at Heping Forest Farm, which was later included in the park.

Wang felt a sense of pride in taking the job after graduation as the farm played an important role in providing a steady wood supply for other regions as cities across China vigorously advanced in construction.

The monthly income back then was also quite satisfactory, Wang added.

"We were opposed to predatory logging, so we always cut the bigger trees rather than the smaller ones, and lopped off the bad ones over the good ones," he said.

Supposing he would work as a lumberjack for life, Wang was surprised and a little frustrated when he was told logging would be prohibited at the farm in 2003.

Many of his former colleagues left the forests in pursuit of a better livelihood, but Wang decided to stay as he heard a nature reserve would be set up to better protect the forests and wildlife.

The former hustle and bustle at the wood farm, as well as the roaring of chainsaws, were replaced by the pleasant breeze and birdsong in the mountains.

In 2008, Wang officially became a forest ranger, responsible for preventing fire, forest pests and disease, and protecting animals within a section of the forests.

He learned very fast about different plant species. "I sometimes worked as a tour guide for university professors when they came to conduct field research in the forests, and they also taught me about different plants," Wang said.

In 2017, China launched the pilot program of setting up the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park, and the environment in the region has seen great improvement since then.

Wang said Siberian tigers and other rare wild animals are now frequently seen in the park.

"Look, that might be the footmarks of a roe deer," said Wang, pointing to a nearby clump of grass possibly bent under the weight of animals.

To further protect wild animals, Wang and his colleagues have also cleared up hunting traps left behind in the mountains for years. "There is almost none left now," said Wang.

During years of patrolling in the forests, Wang has encountered black bears, was once trapped in the mountains, and also got lost and strayed into dangerous areas.

However, the job has continuously helped him gain a sense of accomplishment, such as when cameras captured wild animals, food at supplementary feeding sites was eaten, or samples of animal feces were collected.

"It was kind of depressing when logging activities were banned," said Wang. "Now I am in love with the forests."

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