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Surviving as a wildlife photographer

By Chen Liang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-06-13 07:12:04

Surviving as a wildlife photographer

Xu Jian lies prostrate to photograph flowering water buttercups during a survey in Qinghai province by Imaging Biodiversity Expedition Inc. Dong Lei / For China Daily

Making a living as a wildlife photographer is not easy, but as Chen Liang discovers, a dedicated conservationist has found a way to combine his two passions - through much dedication and hard work.

How can one survive as a wildlife photographer in China?

Beijinger Xu Jian has tried to find an answer. He worked with Chinese National Geographic magazine for six years, and assisted one of the country's leading wildlife photographers part time for several years and full time in 2007, before becoming a freelance wildlife photographer in 2008.

Finally, in2009 he co-founded the country's first imaging biodiversity survey institute, Imaging Biodiversity Expedition Inc, together with four of his photographer friends.

Over the past five years, IBE has become a successful social enterprise that offers photographic biodiversity surveys to the country's nature reserves, forestry bureaus, scientific research and commercial institutes and NGOs.

From tropical jungles in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan province to no-man's land on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, photographers with IBE have launched 50 expeditions in 39 locations and taken more than 300,000 photos of 6,500 wild species.

"We can support four full-time wildlife photographers, including myself, and have a team of more than 30 expert (or cooperating) photographers," says Xu, director of IBE, at the IBE studio hidden in a residential building in northern Beijing.

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