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Protecting Endangered Camels in China’s Gobi Desert with Remote Sensing Technology

LifestyleProtecting Endangered Camels in China's Gobi Desert with Remote Sensing Technology

In the office of Liu Shaochuang, a remote sensing scientist, hangs a large photograph that he captured over a decade ago in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The photo features a camel that he tracked and studied using satellite remote sensing technology, which has been the focus of his research since 2012.

Liu’s interest lies not only in the study of endangered species, but also in their relationship with their environment. He believes that this understanding will help develop better strategies for animal protection, particularly in the face of climate change. His work has gained attention and praise as a successful example of how advanced space technology can benefit animal protection efforts on Earth.

In order to capture his photograph of the camel, Liu spent hours crouched in camouflage by a pool of water in the Gobi Desert. This dedication is a testament to his commitment to his research. His work has led to a better understanding of the habits and behaviors of wild camels, which has in turn provided insight into how to better protect these endangered animals.

Liu’s team has continued to track and study wild camels, providing valuable data on their movements and habitat. This information is used to develop protection plans for the animals, which can be shared with other organizations and governments to improve conservation efforts.

As the world continues to face challenges posed by climate change and environmental degradation, Liu’s research and dedication serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting our planet and the animals that call it home. His work is a shining example of how technology can be used for the greater good, and is an inspiration for those who seek to make a positive impact on the world.

Liu Shaochuang is a versatile scientist who works at the Aerospace Information Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He has explored numerous fields, including polar region scientific expeditions and mapping the headwaters of major rivers worldwide. In addition, he has developed navigation and localization systems for China’s lunar and Mars rovers.

Liu’s fascination with wild camels began when his team tested a prototype design of the lunar rover Yutu in the desert. The even-toed camel, which is found in the harsh deserts of northwestern China and southwestern Mongolia, is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The population of this species is estimated to be less than 1,000, with around 650 residing in China.

Since 2012, Liu has been leading a team in tracking and studying wild camels using satellite remote sensing technology. Instead of focusing solely on the species, Liu’s research has emphasized the interrelationship between endangered animals and their environment. He believes that this approach will help develop better protection strategies for animals facing climate change.

Recently, Liu’s research received recognition in the lead-up to World Wildlife Day on March 3. His work was hailed as a successful example of how advanced space technology can benefit animal protection efforts on Earth. With his innovative work, Liu continues to push the boundaries of scientific research and contribute to the conservation of endangered species.

Liu explains that a decade ago, research on wild Bactrian camels relied solely on human observation, which was very primitive. Scientists used to learn the habits of these fully migratory camels by studying hoof prints and droppings. The challenge was not only to find one camel in the vast desert but also to track it. Liu believed that his expertise in satellite navigation and remote sensing could be useful in studying wild camels.

However, it was not easy for Liu to pursue his interest in wild camels. He had to learn zoology from scratch and lead his team in braving dust and sandstorms for several weeks each year in the Gobi Desert to find camels. Liu even sustained a scar on his right eyebrow from a rollover accident on a rugged mountain road in Xinjiang. Despite the difficulties, Liu was excited to attach trackers to the wild camels, which was the most thrilling moment for him.

On May 6, 2012, Liu’s team succeeded in putting a satellite positioning collar on a wild camel, a female, in Xinjiang’s Lop Nur Desert. This achievement marked the first time the team had succeeded in attaching trackers to a wild camel. With the use of satellite remote sensing technology, Liu and his team can now track the wild camels’ movements and study their habits more accurately.

Liu’s research on the interrelationship between endangered animals and their environment has been praised for its potential to help develop better protection strategies in the face of climate change. His work has also been highlighted as a successful example of how advanced space technology can benefit animal protection efforts on Earth. Liu continues to lead his team in their efforts to protect wild camels and their habitat using innovative technology and expertise in remote sensing.

Liu’s team has successfully developed and implemented tracking collars equipped with special receivers that weigh only a few hundred grams. These collars can detach automatically and do not negatively impact the daily lives of wild camels. According to Liu, at least seven wild camels currently wear tracking collars, and their locations are transmitted via satellite every day. Scientists can use tracking data to understand the migratory paths, living environments, and potential threats to wild camels.

The China BeiDou Navigation Satellite System‘s short message function enables the collar to transmit and receive signals in real time. Even when communication network signals are poor, collars with BeiDou chips can send back the positions of wild camels via Chinese satellites. From his office in Beijing, Liu can access information about the surrounding environment on his computer, such as temperature, vegetation, and water sources.

Through his research, Liu has discovered that the suitable habitat range for wild camels has greatly shrunk due to climate change. As a result, wild camels have moved to the colder Altun Mountain Range in China and higher-altitude regions in Mongolia. Liu believes that this may increase the animals’ vulnerability to dangers such as attacks by wolves, reduced access to drinking water, and a higher risk of disease.

Liu’s research on wild camels is crucial in developing better protection strategies to ensure their survival in the face of climate change. By using satellite remote sensing technology, Liu’s team can track and study these endangered animals, providing insights into their behavior and environmental needs. This information can be used to develop effective conservation policies that balance human activities with the protection of wildlife.

Liu’s team’s innovative use of satellite technology in studying wild camels has brought attention to the benefits of advanced space technology for animal protection efforts. His work exemplifies the potential for technology to make a positive impact on the world, providing valuable insights into the interrelationship between endangered animals and their environment.

Liu believes that studying wild camels is a significant scientific and technological endeavor. Scientists have discovered that the DNA of wild camels differs by 2 to 3 percent from that of domesticated camels, while the difference between human and chimpanzee DNA is only 1 percent. Wild camels possess greater resilience in harsh environments, and some researchers believe that their genes could provide useful insights for the treatment of cancer and diabetes.

However, Liu acknowledges that there is still much to learn about this rare species, including its population, distribution, and behavior. He intends to collaborate with Mongolian counterparts to enhance wild camel protection and to utilize tracking techniques to study other species.

According to Liu, exploring the unknown is a passion of his, and he plans to continue researching and protecting rare species. With over 40 BeiDou navigation satellites currently in operation and three to five more set to launch this year, Liu believes that wildlife protection and research will become more precise and efficient.

In conclusion, Liu advocates for the protection of wild camels and proposes the creation of a larger national park and an expansion of the current protection zones. He recommends the implementation of a space-air-ground integrated monitoring system to improve observation capabilities. Liu believes that studying wild camels is a significant scientific and technological endeavor with potential implications for human health. While much is unknown about wild camels, Liu plans to collaborate with Mongolian counterparts to enhance protection and apply tracking techniques to other species. With advances in technology, Liu anticipates more precise and efficient wildlife protection and research.

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