Female rangers put skills to the test

2021-09-07 China Daily Editor:Wang Yifan

Challenging roles call for hard work, bravery and dedication

Nearly every day for the past two-and-a-half years, Xu Chunmei and her teammates have patrolled forests in Heilongjiang province.

Walking an average of 8 kilometers a day in areas near Chaoyanggou Forest Farm, the team's main duties are to set up and maintain infrared cameras, find and record the tracks of wild animals-especially endangered species-and remove traps placed to catch such creatures.

The team, comprising six female rangers age 27 to 38, was founded in February 2019 for wildlife conservation work in the area, part of the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces under the supervision of the Dongning Forestry Bureau.

Li Gang, deputy director of the farm, said: "Twenty rangers in Chaoyanggou work 23,000 hectares of forests. The female rangers have their advantages for such duties. They are good at making work plans and finding more-detailed information."

Xu, 31, who was born on a forest farm, said: "I am a third-generation forestry worker and I grew up in the forests. After graduating from junior high school in 2007, I continued my studies at Qiqihar Forestry School, a technical secondary school in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang."

After graduating in 2010, she returned to her hometown and became a forestry worker, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.

"I was appointed to patrol nearby forests to stop illegal lumbering work and prevent forest fires," Xu said. "At the end of 2018, when I heard that the team of wildlife conservation rangers was recruiting females, I wanted to give it a try.

"My father gave me great support and told me forest workers should walk deep into the mountains. However, I seldom had the chance to walk that far."

As a forestry worker with several years' experience, she was accepted as a member of the conservation rangers team immediately after submitting her application.

Unlike Xu, Wu Tong joined the team after trying different jobs in cities such as Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, and Beijing.

The youngest member of the team, Wu, 27, was also born to a forestry family. When she graduated from junior high school in 2010, she chose to study accountancy at a technical secondary school in Harbin.

"I graduated from the school in 2013 and tried jobs as a saleswoman and accountant in Harbin and Beijing," she said. "After a few years away, I decided to return to my hometown."

In early 2019, Wu joined the Dongning Forest Bureau before being accepted for the conservation team.

Xu said: "We usually set out for the forest at 8 am and return at about 4 pm. In the northeast, it is really cold in winter and snow can sometimes reach up to our knees."

Wu said: "It is hard to walk quickly in thick snow. Our shoes become extremely wet when we walk for several hours, but the snow makes it easier for us to find clear footprints of wild animals."

In summer, the team members often start out at about 4 am and return before the hottest part of the day in the afternoon.

"It is hard to see far in summer because of the dense leaves on the trees," Wu said. "We are often scared by snakes and some worms that appear suddenly."

Xu said: "During our work, we continually study wildlife. I am happy when I can accurately identify the footprints of wild animals.

"We also use good methods to punish those found placing traps to catch animals. For 30 days, we make them lead us to locations where there are more traps.

"We are following our predecessors in working in the mountains. I love the natural environment and wildlife in the mountains, which motivated me to seek this position."

Wu added: "In our spare time, we visit forest farms and villages to promote knowledge of wildlife conservation and also tell people not to hunt. Wildlife conservation requires efforts from all of the society."

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