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17 Jan 2020 | HI-LIFE

Using the power of images to promote biodiversity conservation in the far-eastern Himalaya

Photo and video entries from professionals and community foresters and members highlighted the immense diversity of endangered species in the Gaoligong Mountains, China, and the need for concerted conservation efforts.

Liu Rongkun & Yi Shaoliang

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A staff member of the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve Lushui Bureau introduces the winning photos to locals (Photo: Rongkun Liu)

In a bid to highlight the biodiversity in the far-eastern Himalaya and promote conservation efforts, a photography contest and exhibition was held from September through December 2019 in Lushui City, Yunnan, China. The event showcased the achievements over the past few years in poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation, and improvement of people’s habitats and well-being in the Gaoligong Mountains (Lushui part), a global biodiversity hotspot and core area of the Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site. The event was promoted with the tagline “Documenting biodiversity through lenses, conserving nature through images” and was jointly organized by ICIMOD’s Landscape Initiative for Far Eastern Himalayas (HI-LIFE) and the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve Lushui Bureau.

More than 120 participants submitted over 500 entries to the contest between September and November, and 38 top entries were selected for prizes in three categories: professional photos, community photos, and short videos. To encourage local participation, the community category was reserved for participants living around the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve of Lushui City, and 16 prizes were awarded to local community members, including village foresters. Winning photos were thematically grouped into three: (1) Natural landscapes; (2) Wild animals and plants; and (3) Humans and nature.

Community foresters were particularly excited about their work being credited and displayed in their own community. For instance, Liu Pu, community forester from Pianma who submitted a winning entry, has tracked and monitored Myanmar snub-nosed monkeys for the past nine years. “I feel all these years of hard work has paid off. Not only did I receive a gold prize, I think the endangered species in our area have also received great exposure. I will try to take better photos and videos, and showcase our flagship species to the general public. I think that can help highlight our conservation work,” said Liu Pu.

A village forester introduces his winning photo
A village forester introduces his winning photo to locals (Photo: Bin Wang)


Bandana Shakya, Myanmar Coordinator – HI-LIFE, and Than Soe Oo, Assistant Chief Technical Adviser to ASEAN Heritage Parks Small Grant Programme (ICIMOD’s partner representative from Myanmar), were invited to the award ceremony held on 20 December 2019. In a post-event interview with the local TV station, Shakya noted that photography is an important medium for expression and effective as a rallying call, with scientists and the local community using the medium to unite for biodiversity conservation. “At an institutional level, this is a very good collaboration between ICIMOD and the Gaoligong National Nature Reserve Bureaus of Lushui and Nujiang prefectures, and we will continue to work together in the future to promote the biodiversity conservation,” said Shakya.

Local villagers of the indigenous Bai ethnicity
Local villagers of the indigenous Bai ethnicity attend the exhibition (Photo: Bin Wang)


After the ceremony, 25 top photos were taken on an exhibition tour, displayed in about 6 schools and 16 villages around the reserve. The aim was to promote community participation in biodiversity conservation and cultural preservation. More than 2,000 students and 6,000 villagers visited the exhibition. A local villager expressed his enjoyment: “We got to visually understand that there are so many other living creatures in our homeland, and we enjoyed nature’s beauty from different perspectives.” After the exhibition, all the winning photographs and short videos will be showcased in the reserve’s exhibition and education hall in Yaojiaping, Lushui, open to the public all year round.

School children touring the exhibition
School children touring the exhibition, learning about the different species found in the nature reserve (Photo: Bin Wang)


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