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Ge Yuxiu: from King of Birds to Environmental Activist
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"I don't enjoy the title 'King of Birds' like before, and I am more concerned about the endangered antelope now," said Ge Yuxiu, who won this title for his twenty years' of photographing birds on Bird Island in Qinghai Lake. His formal work is a leader at a banking regulatory bureau.

For him, birds are like flowers and dancers in the sky. "I just felt fascinated by the large numbers of birds living here. I felt my life has been extended through the process of photographing," said Ge Yuxiu when he recalled his early days in Qinghai. He began to take pictures in 1978 when he served in the military. Then in 1995 he concentrated his work on animals and the environment around Qinghai Lake.

"My view of photography is a combination of 30 percent o passion, 30 percent reason, 30 percent perseverance and ten percent indifference to fame or gain," said Ge. Now he has a collection of over 30,000 pictures that covered each kind of bird there.

As a well-known environmental protection activist, he focuses his attention on the protection of China's only endemic antelope, the Procapra Przewalskii, at Qinghai Lake, China's largest inland saltwater lake in the northwestern province of Qinghai. Procapra Przewalskii, named after Russian naturalist Przewalskii, is a very attractive variety of highland antelope.

"In November 1997, I took pictures of seven antelopes as they were running and became the first to capture this animal with a camera in Qinghai Province," said Ge. In the following years, he continued to study and photograph them, and exchanged ideas with experts from universities and research institutes, such as the Chinese Academy of Forestry. He said "based upon my ten year- track record, I found that the animal had to compete with domesticated goats and sometimes they were forced to live in the deep desert, where the wide wolves are a large threat."

It's reported that there are less than 300 such animals remaining, and they are in imminent peril due to the expansion of grazing areas and increasing number of livestock. Historically, Przewalski's gazelle was found in regions in northwest China, such as Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Xinjiang and Qinghai. But today their habitat has been reduced to just one, the steppes and stabilized sand dunes around Qinghai Lake. In 1996, the animal was classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. "The antelope might disappear from the earth before we understand its zoology, evolution and genetic characteristic." said Professor Jiang Zhigang from Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Science.

His aim is to establish a reservation area devoted to the protection and conservation of the endangered antelope. Actually, he doesn't work alone. He has established a website (www.qhqphoto.com) to promote awareness of environmental protection and organize activities. "I feel gratitude when I see some unknown netizens posting my articles in other forums," said Ge.

The following are photos taken by Ge Yuxiu.

(China Daily January 11, 2006)


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