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Chu Wenwen: From the ‘Beaver Princess’ to an activist in nature conservation

“I’m very honored to be awarded the ‘China Youth May Fourth Medal’, which is an honor that I have never expected before.” said Chu Wenwen on May 8, 2022, when she was interviewed by the reporter of Shiliuyun/Xinjiang Daily.

As the May Fourth Youth Day approached, Chu Wenwen was awarded the ‘China Youth May Fourth Medal’, which was a great honor that made her feel so happy and reminded her of her responsibilities. “We can’t have such gains without the care and support of millions of Internet users and competent departments, so the honor doesn’t only belong to me and it represents a cohesive love of all sectors of society for ecological protection.” said Chu Wenwen.

Photo shows Chu Wenwen (first from the right) works outdoors with colleagues. (Photo offered by the Altay Prefecture Nature Conservancy, northwest China’s Xinjiang)

Born in Altay Prefecture in 1994, Chu Wenwen has been influenced by her father, an animal conservationist, since she was a child. When she was two, she went outdoors with her father; at seven, she packed bags for going outdoors by herself; and at eleven, she rescued wildlife together with other adults. After graduation as a master, she established the Altay Prefecture Nature Conservancy, initiated public welfare projects such as the ‘beaver canteen’, the ‘Mengxin beaver guardian’, and the wildlife rescue center, etc.. She is affectionately called the ‘Beaver Princess’ due to her engagement in the protection of the Mengxin beaver, a first-class state-protected animal in China.

Inhabiting the Ulungur River and its tributaries in Altay Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang, cute Mengxin beavers are regarded as the architects of the animal world because they can build dams to reserve water, creating suitable habitats for their own living. At present, Mengxin beavers are only distributed in the Ulungur River basin in China, with the number of about 600. Chu Wenwen has been observing and recording the daily life of Mengxin beavers since she was a child.

Photo shows Chu Wenwen takes care of an animal. (Photo offered by the Altay Prefecture Nature Conservancy, northwest China’s Xinjiang)

In 2018, after graduation from Beijing Forestry University as a master, Chu Wenwen gave up the chance of working in the city and resolutely went back to her hometown to be a wildlife conservationist. She initiated the Altay Prefecture Nature Conservancy and appeals to all sectors of society to pay attention to and protect Mengxi beaver. With the concerted efforts Chu Wenwen’s team, the number of beaver nests has increased from 162 to 190 over the past four years, a 20-percent jump for the population of the animal.

Because of her outstanding work in the field of natural environmental protection, Chu was invited to the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Yunnan Province, China. At the opening ceremony, she spoke as a representative of Chinese youth, telling her story of protecting Mengxin beavers in her hometown Altay. The young Chu Wenwen exuded the optimistic and confident style of the youth of China with the whole world watching. “I want to tell the world that the youth in China are very serious about and devoted to nature conservation. We love nature and respect life, and I believe that with the efforts of so many peers, China’s nature conservation will be great.” said Chu Wenwen.

Photo shows Chu Wenwen speaks during the opening ceremony of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Oct. 11, 2021. (Photo by Xu Tan)

Chu has the temperaments featuring a woman in the new era: independent, capable and experienced, expressive and full of youthful vigor. In the wild, she is a capable and dynamic environmental protector; On the Internet, she passes her happiness of protecting wildlife to millions of Internet users; In front of cameras, she is a mellowed and smart youth who expresses her thoughts fluently and confidently.

Now, the Altay Prefecture Nature Conservancy led by Chu Wenwen has a clearer goal, which is to make participating public welfare activities of nature conservation an easier thing. The team made a five-year development goal in this regard: complete the construction of various carriers and channels for mass participation in nature conservation, including contributing money, labor and time, to strengthen the nature protection team force and improve the popularization of knowledge on nature conservation.

“Our generation of young people are lucky to grow up in a new era when the state vigorously promotes ecological protection, and the support of the government, the participation of the media and the increase of public awareness of nature conservation lay a good foundation for our work. In the future, I will continue to work with my colleagues to create more new models and technologies on nature conservation through learning the experiences in the past and share them with others who are also fighting for it. We will strive to add luster to China’s ecological civilization through our own efforts.” said Chu Wenwen.