Mingyu Liu is a doctoral student at Peking University in Beijing, and a member of Youth for Wildlife Conservation. On March 3, he will participate in a Global Landscapes Forum Digital Summit on the Role of Youth in Big Cat Conservation on World Wildlife Day.
I started working with big cats when I joined the university conservation biology lab as a graduate student in 2014. Since childhood I have loved animals, especially snow leopards and cheetahs. Studying biology at school, I knew I was destined to become a zoology researcher.
Due to my longing for equality, the search for coexistence and unbearable pity for the suffering of all creatures, I travelled to the Tibetan plateau, the closest place on Earth to the sky. It is one of the last intact ecosystems in China and is a hot spot for biodiversity with many endemic species that have not been studied in detail.
However, it is also a fragile ecosystem facing the threat of destruction from global warming, local development and construction.
This place, like a shining star, lingers in my heart, and I always think it is my fate to do something for the endangered animals living there.
Luckily, I got the valuable opportunity to conduct research and take part in the snow leopard protection program.
Our aim at the lab is to research and analyze threats to snow leopards, including illegal hunting, retaliatory hunting, habitat fragmentation and global warming, and to solve those threats through community-based methods with the help of local government.
Snow leopards are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the globally accepted barometer for assessing risk to wildlife.
The research has involved participating in a citizen science project. As part of our efforts to protect snow leopards, we engage local herders to participate in monitoring them through camera traps. These community-based monitoring activities help us learn more about the density, home range and activity patterns of this big cat. We also promote local people’s awareness on the conservation of this beautiful animal.
I have also been part of the human-carnivore conflicts project. We established snow leopard insurance for yak and sheep herders to reduce retaliatory hunting resulting from human-carnivore conflicts. If livestock is killed by a snow leopard through a reporting and verification process the herder is compensated, which means they are less likely to kill the snow leopard in retaliation.
We are also promoting the establishment of Sanjiangyuan National Park, the first and largest national park in China.
After months of monitoring through camera traps, collecting of scat samples, camping out and interviewing local people, eventually we saw the elegant snow leopards in real life.
For my own research, I focus on the threats to big cats from stray dogs.
Due to the collapse of Tibetan mastiff market around 2012 related to a government policy of ferocious dog patrol, the price of dogs declined and thousands of mastiffs were abandoned and left to roam wild, forming packs and attacking snow leopards.
Their biological traits and broad morphological adaptability mean that when they are released into the wild, Tibetan mastiffs occur at densities much higher than any other similar sized native carnivore.
I undertook ecological and social research to understand their impact on snow leopards, and came up with some solutions to solve this problem. Through research, I learned that stray mastiffs overlap with snow leopards when it comes to diet, activity patterns and distribution. Adoption and sterilization of mastiffs would be a feasible way to solve this problem.
The meaning of youth action for me personally is the hope for the future, the future for Mother Earth, the future for the whole ecosystem, and most importantly the future for humanity.
An old saying in Chinese, states that strong youth lead to a strong country.
Only when most youth begin to recognize the urgent threats to the ecosystem and take action can we have a brighter tomorrow and a harmonious nation.
I make a call to action to join Youth for Wildlife Conservation, think more about wildlife and ecosystems. Make small efforts to change the bad behavior we impose on Mother Earth.
Register for Global Landscapes Forum digital summit by clicking here: Digital Summit on the Role of Youth in Big Cat Conservation