Across China: A 40-year relay of protecting sika deer

Updated: 2022- 05- 25

NANCHANG, May 24 (Xinhua) -- On the muddy path among the bushes, 59-year-old Wu Yefei and 34-year-old Lin Zhonghua followed the footprints of the sika deer, an endangered species under China's top national protection, to observe the surrounding environment and check the electronic equipment in the mountain.

Both Wu and Lin are patrollers of the Taohongling Sika Deer National Nature Reserve in Pengze County, Jiujiang City, east China's Jiangxi Province. Wu has worked here for 40 years since the reserve was established in 1981.

"Wu was one of the first patrollers and knows everything in the mountains. I have been calling him 'Master' for 12 years," said Lin, who entered the reserve at a loss in 2010 just after graduating from college.

Fortunately, Lin has an experienced master. Wu can judge the number of wild animals and their main range of activities by observing their footprints. And where the steep hills and dense plants are, are all imprinted in his mind.

The provincial government established the Taohongling Sika Deer Reserve in 1981. At that time, due to factors such as the natural environment and hunting, the number of sika deer continued to decrease. Only about 60 remained in the reserve.

"We knew nothing about the habits of the sika deer at that time," Wu said.

In the past, clearing the traps was an important task. Wu recalled that these traps sometimes killed the sika deer. After destroying hunting sets for a long time, Wu had a thick layer of calluses on his hands.

He has to hike nearly 30,000 steps in the mountain every time he patrols. Over the past 40 years, Wu has witnessed the changes in the reserve from step-by-step measurements. What gratifies him most is the increase in residents' awareness of protecting the sika deer.

One day three years ago, a sixth-grade student rode a bicycle to tell the patrollers that a sika deer was stuck in a quagmire. "Hearing that, we rushed there in time to help the deer escape," Wu said.

Thanks to the continuous relay of protecting the sika deer, everyone's efforts have paid off. In early 2021, according to a joint survey by the Taohongling Reserve and Jiangxi Normal University, the sika deer population was estimated to be 624, ten times the number when the reserve was established. The sika deer, originally on high alert, become friendly to people.

Wu will retire in one year, but he is now more at ease because he believes the sika deer in Taohongling will have a brighter future.

Infrared cameras have been installed in the mountain in recent years, and professional drones patrol the area. In 2019, the nature reserve administration worked with 17 local government departments to jointly establish the Sika Deer Joint Protection Committee, and more young people have joined the patrol team.

"The protection of the sika deer in the future indeed depends on young people and high technology," Wu said.