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He records Mt. Gaoligong with camera

Updated:2022-04-18 11:46:52   Yunnan Tourism and Culture Times

Editor's note: For two decades, Bi Zheng has guarded the Gaoligong Mountain with a camera in hand. Taking pictures of rare animals and plants, Bi showed the effective eco-protection in the mountain. His photos have allowed the public to know about Mt. Gaoligong, thinking about biodiversity conservation.

Bi Zheng(4th; L) and his colleagues work in the Gaoligong reserve. Photo provided to Xinhua Net 

He records Mt. Gaoligong with camera

"I’ve no ambition in life, but I love hills in nature. Interested in birds and insects, I don’t care about success or failure." Bi Zheng, director of the Tengchong branch management of the Gaoligong Mountain nature reserve in west Yunnan, summed up his career as a guardian of the mountain. For more than 20 years, Bi used a camera to record the species in the reserve. Taking pictures and videos of the rare plants and animals, he had the mysterious species in Mt. Gaoligong exposed to the outside world.

Folks in Tengchong call Gaoligong "mother", an expression of their affection to the mountain. In 2001, Bi joined the Tengchong management via job transfer. At a time, Bi dreamed of working in the cities, but he later felt destined to be a guardian of this lush mountain, and this faith lasted for over 20 years.

At first, he wasn’t familiar with photos or cameras. Watching the growth of trees, leaves, flowers and birds day after day, Bi Zheng witnessed the ecological changes in the mountain. However, he didn’t want to keep the sights to himself, but to let people outside the mountain see the protection results in Gaoligong. So Bi kicked off his picture taking in the mountain, in hope of arousing more public awareness in respecting nature and conserving biodiversity.

"In eco-protection, the hard way is to restrain folks by law, while the soft way is to present people the natural beautiful and let them feel obliged to love and care for nature, " Bi said.


A hoolock gibbon is seen in the Gaoligong reserve. (Photo provided to Xinhua Net by Bi Zheng) 

Truth within pictures

The Gaoligong Mountain is a major shield for ecological security in southwest China, and it also showcases the results of biodiversity protection in the country. Known as the "gene bank of world species", the area has seen most of China’s discovery in new species in the past 30 years.

Numerous species grow in Mount Gaoligong, but some species are poorly recorded, so Bi Zheng has pursued truth by taking pictures. In recording the species, he never fell behind the schedule, especially in a bird-watching journey that required him to move here and there.

Back to one day in 2019, when local rangers said yellow-rump honey birds were spotted by monitoring equipment, Bi gave up the opportunity to accompany his family and hurried into the mountain to watch the birds. To take a photo, Bi only needs to press the shutter once, but the waiting was full of uncertainty. The yellow honey guide is a rare bird in Mt. Gaoligong. After hours of crouching in the woods, Bi succeeded in photographing the honey bird, and the process was detailed in his book Notes on Bird Watching.


A rufous-bellied niltava in the reserve (Photo provided to Xinhua Net by Bi Zheng) 

The book is a recording of Bi Zheng's road towards bird protection for decades. After each bird-watching tour, he would write down in detail the time, spot, shape, habitat and the story in watching the bird. Now, the would-be book Notes on Bird Watching has added up to more than 200,000 words.

So far, Bi has taken around 10,000 photos, including 300 plus species of birds, and 100 butterflies, as well as 40 wild animals that have been photographed by infrared cameras. In words and photos, Bi provided hard evidence vivid for the rich bio-resources and biodiversity conservation in the Gaoligong Mountain.

In recent years, remarkable results have been achieved in surveying the biodiversity in Gaoligong. A number of species, such as the hoolock gibbon, the Tengchong leaf-litter toad, the Dali cymbidium and more, were discovered in succession, leaving the world valuable data and allowing the outsiders to see Gaoligong directly.


The Dali cymbidium (Photo provided to Xinhua Net by Bi Zheng) 

Results from hard work 

"In our in-depth monitoring missions and patrols, it's common to wade through rivers in the mountains, sleep in the wilderness, and keep company with birds or beasts,” Bi Zheng said. "I often use the phrase 'mixed smells' to describe my fellow team members. The smells of rain, sweat, mud and moss were all mixed together with the smell of smoke when we were cookingin the woods.” Bi added it's hard and tiring to do be a mountain guardian, but they were relieved at the increased public awareness in biodiversity protection.

Bi Zheng revealed that the Tengchong branch of Mt. Gaoligong reserve management is staffed with 50 full-time conservationists and 130 part-time forest guards. With the goal of "letting Mt. Gaoligong and the world know each other,” the Tengchong branch has, for decades, managed the reserve by preventing forest fire, imparting locals in eco-protection, exchanging ideas with peers, and boosting economy of surrounding communities.

Bi is 52 years old this year, and he’ll continue caring for Gaoligong in the future. He has been in love with his job for so long.  


Staffers at the Gaoligong reserve carry out patrol. (Photo provided to Xinhua Net by Bi Zheng) 

Reporting by Li Na; Xinhua photos; Trans-editing by Wang Shixue

Keywords:   Gaoligong lens Bi Zheng