Sunday, May 6, 2012

Old Friends - Gong Jien - Wildlife Biologist

Gong Jien & Moi on my first visit to China (a few years ago)

I looked a little younger when I first visited China. Today my old Simon Fraser University classmate, Gong Jien, works as a wildlife biologist and wildlife manager for the Sichuan Forestry Department and is based in Chengdu. He has worked on Giant Panda, Moon Bears and is now the Executive Director for the CITES Management Authority of China. CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

As some of you may know the illegal trade in wildlife parts is a multi-billion dollar industry globally and one of the target markets is Asia, and in particular China. Elephant ivory from Africa, bear gall bladders, claws and paws from Canada and the US and all sorts of other wildlife and their parts make their way to Asia on ships, in planes and even in the baggage of travelers all bound for the lucrative market. Not all species that are part of the trade are big and furry.

Gong Jien works within the Sichuan region on Chinese species of concern. We all know about Giant Pandas ... but do you know about the fungus that grows on particular worms in the mountains of Sichuan and in the Himalayas? Gong Jien's department has a campaign to try and reduce the harvest of this worm/fungus as the harvest process is destructive to mountain habitats (local people can make a lot of money by harvesting the fungus).

The fungus (Cordyceps sinensis) is used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as an aphrodisiac and for other ailments. Other species of the genus Cordyceps are sources of biochemicals with valuable biological and pharmacological properties (so its value is documented and perhaps that is why it is so valuable).

I was given the opportunity to meet the staff and also present an overview of my Catt-Trax journeys to the staff of the Chengdu Forestry Department which was I thoroughly enjoyed. Many thanks Gong Jien!