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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Tagging Siberian Tigers in China: A Conservationist’s Way of Life

LifestyleTagging Siberian Tigers in China: A Conservationist's Way of Life

Duan Lianru, a 36-year-old staff member at the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park, is responsible for tagging Siberian tigers in China. Liu Mingtai and Zhou Huiying report from Changchun that Duan spends several hours daily sitting in her office in Hunchun, Jilin province, seeing hundreds of photos of the Siberian tiger on her computer. While it may seem boring to some, Duan enjoys her work and feels a connection with the big cats she tags.

Duan works at the research monitoring center of the Hunchun bureau of the national park, which spans across the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang. Her primary task is to identify the tigers according to the patterns on their fur and assign them unique serial numbers that function as identity cards. As Duan explains, “The pattern on each Siberian tiger is as unique as a human fingerprint. My work is distinguishing different individuals according to the position, length, width, color and shape of the patterns.”

For Duan, tagging tigers is a far cry from what she had imagined for herself a decade ago. Born in Jiamusi, Heilongjiang province, Duan had chosen computer science as her major at Northeast Petroleum University in the province’s Daqing city. Nevertheless, she has found fulfillment in her current role at the national park.

Apart from identifying and tagging the tigers, Duan is also responsible for collecting and analyzing data on the tigers’ movement and behavior. This information is crucial for conservation efforts and helps to monitor the health and safety of the tiger population. Additionally, Duan assists in the coordination of fieldwork activities, such as setting up cameras and traps to capture images and DNA samples.

Despite the challenges associated with her job, Duan is passionate about the work she does. The Siberian tiger is an endangered species, and conservation efforts are critical for their survival. As Duan notes, “Tagging the tigers is not only about monitoring their movements but also about contributing to their protection and preservation.”

To ensure the safety of the tigers, Duan and her colleagues must work with care and precision. They use non-invasive methods to tag the tigers, such as applying dye to their fur, and avoid any actions that may disturb or harm the animals. As Duan explains, “Our aim is to ensure that the tagging process does not affect the tigers in any way.”

Despite the challenges of her job, Duan finds it rewarding to work towards the conservation of the Siberian tiger. Through her work, she is able to contribute to the protection and preservation of this magnificent species, while also feeling a connection to the animals she tags. As she notes, “Tagging the tigers is more than just a job; it’s a way of life.”

Duan’s work highlights the critical role played by national parks and conservationists in protecting endangered species like the Siberian tiger. The success of conservation efforts relies on the dedication and hard work of individuals like Duan, who strive to ensure the survival of these magnificent animals for generations to come.

Duan, a graduate of 2008, landed her first job as an office clerk at a private company in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. However, after her marriage in 2013, she decided to leave her job and move to Hunchun to be with her husband. In Hunchun, she began working as a guide and interpreter at an ecological experience museum owned by the Hunchun forestry bureau.

The museum boasts an extensive collection of knowledge on various wild animals living in the region, including tigers, Amur leopards, and other endangered species. Duan grew up in an urban area and had limited exposure to wildlife, which sparked her interest in learning more about them. To make her interpretation more professional and vivid, she invested much of her spare time in learning about wildlife.

Duan’s interest in big cats grew as she continued to learn about them. She found the study of big cats to have high scientific research value, which motivated her to learn more about them. She discovered that the Hunchun forestry bureau holds training courses for their guides and interpreters every year, which provides a platform for them to learn from forestry experts.

With years of experience, Duan’s hard work and dedication were recognized, and she was selected for a new position in 2020. Her job entails protecting the wildlife and ensuring that visitors to the ecological experience museum are safe. Duan takes great pride in her work, knowing that it contributes to the conservation of endangered species.

In the same year, the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park introduced a high-tech surveillance system. The system is a combination of modern communication, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing. It provides real-time protection of flora and fauna and helps capture images of Siberian tigers and Amur leopards. This system has significantly enhanced the protection of endangered species in the park.

Duan feels fortunate to work in an environment that aligns with her interests and passion for wildlife conservation. She is proud to contribute to the preservation of these endangered species and to educate visitors about the importance of conservation.

Through her hard work and dedication, Duan has become an expert in interpreting and guiding visitors through the ecological experience museum. Her interpretation is both professional and vivid, making it an enriching experience for visitors. Duan believes that this is essential for visitors to appreciate the importance of wildlife conservation.

Duan’s love for wildlife has also taught her the importance of continuous learning. She believes that keeping up to date with the latest information and research is crucial for the conservation of endangered species. She is grateful for the opportunity to attend training courses held by the Hunchun forestry bureau, where she can learn from forestry experts.

Duan’s journey from an office clerk to a wildlife interpreter and guide is a testament to her hard work, dedication, and passion for wildlife conservation. She takes great pride in her work and believes that it contributes to the conservation of endangered species. The introduction of the high-tech surveillance system in the Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park has significantly enhanced the protection of endangered species. Duan is grateful to work in an environment that aligns with her interests and passions and is committed to continuous learning to ensure the conservation of endangered species.

The Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park is a vast habitat and breeding ground for wild Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, spanning over 1.4 million hectares. This park is of utmost importance in China as it provides a safe and protected area for these endangered species to thrive. According to park data, there are more than 50 Siberian tigers and over 60 Amur leopards living in the park.

With the establishment of the park in 2016, the survival rate of Siberian tiger cubs has increased from 33 percent to 50 percent this year. This is a positive sign of the park’s success in protecting the endangered species. Over 5,000 infrared cameras have been installed to monitor the living conditions of wild tigers and leopards in the park’s Hunchun administrative region, which spans an area of 275,968 hectares.

Identifying individual tigers is crucial for understanding their behavior and habitat. Duan, who works as an interpreter at the park’s ecological experience museum, has become an expert in identifying Siberian tigers through their distinct physical features. “We need to get photos of a tiger’s left and right sides to make sure that it is the same one,” she explains. It can take her anywhere from one day to over half a year to identify a tiger.

The information gathered through this identification process is used to create ID cards for each tiger. These cards contain a wealth of data, including the animal’s activity areas, food chain, and mating conditions. Such information is fundamental to scientific conservation efforts. Duan uses this data to draw family trees of the tigers, providing insight into their lineage and genetic history.

Thanks to improved conservation efforts, there has been a remarkable increase in the variety and number of wild animals in recent years, according to Duan. “I can find more tiger families, including some back two or three generations,” she says. Her role in the park’s conservation efforts is significant, and she feels honored to be involved in wildlife conservation.

Duan hopes that humans and wild animals can coexist in harmony, creating a more beautiful world. She recognizes the importance of preserving natural habitats and protecting endangered species to ensure a sustainable future for all. The park’s success in increasing the survival rate of Siberian tiger cubs and preserving the biodiversity of the region is a testament to the importance of wildlife conservation efforts.

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