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Xi Zhinong - Champion for Wild Creatures
    2007-10-24 17:15:52     CRIENGLISH.com

Wildlife photography is quite backwards in China. Well-known TV programs in China like "Animal World" and "Discovery" are all imported, and few geographic and nature magazines are able to hire their own photographers either.
This all makes Xi Zhinong a pioneer. Ten years ago, Xi volunteered to be a wildlife photographer, and since then he has dedicated his career to animals.

In August 2003, his work, "Tracing the Black Snub-nosed monkey", won the Best Asian Film award at the International Wildlife Film Festival held in the Japanese city Toyama. He has also won the "Earth Awards", China's highest award for environmental protection. Our reporter Xiaoyu has the story.

43-year-old Xi Zhinong is a tall guy. His face is deeply-tanned by the plateau's sunshine, but there is always a friendly smile on it.

Xi Zhinong in 1996

Xi once worked at China Central Television, but nine years ago he quit his respectable job to become a fulltime wildlife photographer and a volunteer for environmental protection.

Talking about this choice, Xi says it may have had something to do with his childhood.

"I was brought up very close to nature. I kept ducks and sparrows as pets. I caught dragonflies in the field. There were many tall eucalyptuses around my school, and that's where owls always slept. The most beautiful part was night time, when only the twittering of birds could be heard, with an occasional wolf howling."

Xi' s hometown is in a small county called Weishan in southwestern China's Yunnan Province. Yunnan is famous for its beautiful scenery and agreeable climate, and Xi's hometown was covered with luxuriant vegetation, as well as many wild animals. Xi loves the place so much, that when he first came to the provincial capital of Kunming to receive his education, it was really tough to adapt to the hustle and bustle of city life. He has always longed to go back to his hometown. So for him, being a professional photographer is a wonderful surprise. His life has become very colorful and enjoyable.

China is said to be one of the most challenging places for wildlife photography, as there's a limited amount of big wild animals and they keep highly alert for humans. To spot and record them in their most natural state is not easy to do. Nevertheless, Xi's camera have caught many valuable pictures of wildlife. One of them in particular is of the black snub-nosed monkey.

The Black Snub-nosed Monkey Shot by Xi Zhinong 
(Photo Source: Xinhua)

Known as the "fairy of snow mountain", the black snub-nosed monkey comes from Yunnan. Together with the golden snub-nosed Monkey from Sichuan, and tonkin snub-nosed monkey from Guizhou, they are rare animals that can only be found in China. It's estimated that only about 1,500 of them still live in the wild, and all of them are found in cold mountainous areas between 3,200 and 4,700 meters in altitude.

In 1992, the World Wild Fund for Nature and the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation initiated a project to protect the monkey, and Xi worked as the photographer for the protection team. Since then, Xi has been enchanted by the "fairy of snow mountain" and spent the next three years tracing and recording their life with his camera.

Life in the wild was full of surprises, sometimes dangerous ones. Xi once fell from a ropeway down into a deep gully. Another time he fell off of a galloping horse in a deserted place. He also narrowly evaded a pack of hard-charging wild yaks, and he even once chased a poacher on a frozen lake in Tibet. The four broken ribs in his body are the proof of his adventures. But all these have not diminished his passion even a little bit. He says that taking pictures constantly is a way to help the human race better understand other living creatures on earth, and understanding is the root of compassion and love.

Xi loves everything from birds to other forms of wildlife, which drove him to pick up his camera in the first place. In 2001, Xi set up his own studio, "the Wild China Film", to promote environmental protection through photography. After more than five years, he says he is really happy to see more and more people joining in this green undertaking.

"I'm pleased to see that many young people have joined us in protecting nature. If everyone takes action, the future of a greener environment is promising. For instance, the campaign to keep air-conditioner temperatures above 26 degrees in summers has been actively taken up by many companies as well as government organizations. Hopefully it will soon be stipulated by law or regulation. This is a progress. At home, you should also turn off the air conditioner if it's not necessary. When you drive, you can open the window to enjoy the natural wind. That way, everyone can contribute."

Xi practices his belief in every aspect of his life. He does not have an air conditioner in his home, he always rides a bicycle and every time he dines out, he takes his own chopsticks to save a pair of wooden disposable ones.

By the end of our interview, Xi Zhinong is ready for another day of fieldwork. For him, this is an exciting chance to communicate with his beloved friends in the wild. People say that the animals in his pictures seem to have wisdom and it looks like they are ready to have a conversation with human beings.



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