China / People

Hunter to friend

By Wu Yong (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-18 09:26

"Good hunters enjoyed respect and were even idolized in the village."

He quickly became an expert hunter himself after finishing his army service in 1982. That fame in the woods even won him a good marriage, as his wife is a meat lover.

However, Liang and the Suiyang forestry bureau became trapped in a crisis in the late 1990s, when almost all virgin forests were chopped down and China implemented intense environmental protection measures in 1998.

Liang says he earned less than 100 yuan (about $12 at that time) for a year, and this dilemma stimulated him to ponder the implications of his old lifestyle.

"I had a vague idea of ecological protection at that time because something must be wrong. And later I got the full picture about the importance of working with wildlife experts."

Many wildlife protection NGOs, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, came to Suiyang to carry out research with the help of local forestry officials.

Liang was recommended to work as the ranger for WWF because of his rich hunting experience.

Peng Jianyu, an anti-poaching officer with the WWF's China tiger program, says she helped put together a team made of more than 50 rangers in the region. And Liang is one of the best among them.

The shift from hunter to ranger is both a challenge and an opportunity for Liang.

Liang's wife and son have moved to the town for the modern conveniences - central heating and tap water, the shopping mall and various foods. But Liang insists on living in the mountains and pursues his own way of life.

"I grew up in this forest, and I enjoy the unique trees, grass and river. Staying in the woods makes me joyful," Liang explains.

Liang's history as a hunter has made him a star again in his new wildlife protection profession because he knows every corner of this mountain, the animals living there and all the tricks of the poacher.

Peng praises Liang. "He and his colleagues play a very important role in combating poaching. And we have found evidence of more wild animals here in recent years."

With more university students coming here for field study, Liang even works as a tutor, teaching them how to tell the animal's species via the footprints.

"I feel regret as I find out more about the environmental protection. Both logging and hunting are exploitation of forest resources. I hope to make up for my past."

His experience helps him succeed in his work. But the patrols still pose many challenges, including extreme weather, threats from poachers and predators.

"To patrol in winter is exhausting because the -30C temperature and the thick snow will drain your strength and energy in one hour.

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