BEIJING, China — As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The work of one of China’s most famous wildlife photographers and environmental activists, Zhinong Xi, brings this saying to life.
In Xi’s 20 year career as a wildlife photographer, Xi has captured images of China’s rarest plants and wildlife. However, much to his dismay, he’s also watched as rapid human development wreaked havoc on China’s most delicate ecosystems, endangering biodiversity and threating these precious plants and wildlife with extinction. Like images on overexposed film, Xi has seen some of these rare and wonderful creatures disappear completely.
This rallied Xi to establish Wild China Film (WCF), an innovative and constructive NGO that funds professional and trained-amateur photographers to trek to China’s farthest corners and capture thrilling images of China’s rich, rare, natural treasures: endangered species and plant life. By sharing these dramatic images to the press and through major museum exhibitions, WCF hopes to educate and inspire the public to do their part to protect these endangered species for future generations.
WCF is one of 30 shortlisted projects in Ford's 2012 Conservation and Environmental Grants, China (CEGC) program. The shortlisted projects were chosen as the 30 most innovative and high-impact projects by CEGC’s independent judging panel after a rigorous review of more than 200 submissions received in the past four months.
From October 23 to November 8, nineteen Ford employee volunteers traveled over 60,000 kilometers to investigate the impact and credibility of shortlisted projects across 14 provinces. During these “field investigations,” Ford’s employee volunteers spoke to project managers, project beneficiaries and other relevant stakeholders through on-site and telephone interviews.
In WCF’s office, located in the beautiful Beijing Zoo, Ford CEGC volunteer, Yuanjia Zhang, a Chinese editor from the Ford APA Content Factory team, met with Cheng Shen and other three full-time project coordinators, who are each committed to promoting the WCF project.
“We feel happy and honored that WCF was listed among such an esteemed group of nominees for CEGC’s ‘Communications in Environmental Conservation’ award this year. We aim to encourage people to have a passion for nature and a desire to help protect China’s critically endangered ecology through powerful wildlife images,” said Cheng Shen, WCF project leader.
“Our photographs have been published in many magazines and journals at home and abroad, including National Geographic. At the same time, we set up photo exhibitions around the country in museums, art galleries, zoos and parks, so that the public see and learn more about these endangered species. Finally, we hold ‘boot camps’ to train professional and burgeoning photographers—mainly staff from national reserve parks, who are most close to those species—to take good photos,” Shen added.
“I think what WCF is doing is very meaningful. People often underestimate the power of photography. A good photo might just save an animal species from extinction! I have some experience myself. Some contractors in China were going to plant rubber trees for commercial use—replacing a natural forest reserve. I took photos of black long arm monkeys crying because their homes were going to be destroyed and the photos—via a WCF photo campaign—caught the attention of a local Forest Bureau. They immediately took action and managed to save the forest and the animals that lived in it,” said WCF contributing photographer Xiushan Wu, a veterinarian in Beijing Zoo.
The CEGC program was created to recognize innovative practices like WCF’s that help protect the environment. This year, CEGC will provide RMB 1.5 million in funding to support the efforts of 23 projects across China. The Award Ceremony will be held on November 28 in Shanghai.
“WCF believes in the power of photography. That’s why our hard-working photographers spent weeks and months scaling mountains and crossing streams to shoot China’s most beautiful and rare species. We are fully devoted to using photography and other visual mediums to realize our vision - using images to protect nature,” Shen said.
As one of the most respected environmental awards in China, Ford’s Conservation and Environmental Grants, China (CEGC) program has helped trailblazing grassroots environmental organizations and leaders realize their vision. Since 2000, CEGC has awarded RMB 12.6 million (US $1.85 million) to 278 grantees.