Wang Fang tried to catch a raccoon dog in the night.
This is a small animal shaped like a dog, with lush and soft fur, short limbs, and a fat face due to its long fur. It wears the iconic “black sunglasses”. It is very cautious. Although there are 80 communities in the south of Shanghai, few people can see its traces.
If the daytime in the city belongs to humans, cats and dogs, then the raccoon dog can be regarded as a lone ranger in the night-when the city is quiet, it sticks its head out of the gap, sticks to the root of the wall, and moves around the light. If discovered by humans, they would most likely think that it was a dachshund or a fat orange cat with a less pure pedigree.
A raccoon curiously approaches the phone (Photo: Wang Fang)
Conservation biology scholar Wang Fang didn’t want to let this little guy go. In a community away from the center of Shanghai, Wang Fang led three students to set a trap for it.
It was a cage with a movable door, and a plate was placed in the innermost plate, and the plate was filled with bait. If a gluttonous animal can’t help but step on the pedal, the cage door will lock up immediately. In this way, Wang Fang could fit it with a GPS neck ring as he wished to record its whereabouts.
As night fell, the community gradually became less populated, and this small canine with short legs and long hair appeared.
It sniffed the food, got into the cage, stretched its head to eat the bait in the disc, and then gently withdrew-four or five nights in a row, the trappers let breadworms, small crabs, roast lamb and chicken drumsticks on the plate . Every time, the little guy will eat the food carefully, never taking another step.
The raccoons eating free food are not the same, but come from two families with three or four members each, but they are all cautious without exception.
“I took two doctoral students and a master student, and they weren’t stupid, but I got nothing.” Wang Fang said. The raccoon dogs in the city seem to share some unknown wisdom, and it is not easy for a four-person research team to further observe this wisdom.
The raccoon is back
Wang Fang still doesn’t know how many ways the raccoon can survive in Shanghai. Since becoming a researcher and doctoral supervisor at Fudan University at the end of 2018, he has been observing this ancient canine species, and his plasticity has surprised him.
This small animal, no more than 70 cm in length, lives everywhere in the city: of course the dense trees in the villa area are the best; the old community in Minhang is also OK, where the residential buildings are raised between the first floor and the basement to prevent moisture. There is a ventilated mezzanine for hiding; the dense drainage pipes sometimes get blocked, and the abandoned section can be used as a bedroom; as for the cracks under the villa balconies, the gaps in the walls, the storage rooms, the cracks in the bridge piers, and the gas pipes, There is a lot of space in the city that is invisible to human beings.
They are diners who go wherever they go. Living in Fengxian, you can estimate the time. After the barbecue stalls are closed, you can pick up the fragrant grilled chicken bones on the ground as soon as possible. Qingpu and Jinshan have hills and water bodies. Frogs, crabs and water birds are ready-made foods. In the community, you can taste the rations left by the aunts for the cats from time to time. Before the regular collection of food waste, all trash cans in Shanghai were canteens. Even after the bucket is now removed and the lawn is dug up, there are many fresh and juicy grass roots, earthworms and beetles, enough to enjoy a good meal with meat and vegetables.
A nocturnal raccoon (Photo: Wang Fang)
Wang Fang lived in Beijing since childhood. In his memory, in the city of Beijing in the 1980s, there were small rivers everywhere in Haidian, and springs often came out. There were many barren mountains around Peking University, and you could often see shy and timid squirrels and weasels. With the development of the city, now “you can only look for it exclusively.” Ten years ago, he set his sights on the raccoon dog. Its distribution range is very wide, from Daxinganling to Shanghai, to Yunnan and Guizhou, but at that time, Wang Fang thought that its population was facing collapse in every city in the country.
The reason is the same as that described in the “Heisei Raccoon Battle” produced by Studio Ghibli—buildings have destroyed the local ecology, and the artificially planned green space is filled with garden plants, but it is not much similar to the original home of the raccoon dog. Place. In the animation, the raccoon dog tries to turn into various legendary spirits to prevent human expansion, but it still cannot delay the demise of the habitat.
In the competition with humans, the chance of winning the raccoon dog seems to be small. It has short legs, does not run fast, and it has no advantage over other animals that can be neighbors. For example, the dog badger is a nail household and will fight to the death with cats, dogs, and even humans in order to defend their homes; raccoons are bottomless robbers who will break glass and bite wires when they get food, but raccoon dogs do not have much sense of existence.
However, time has shown that this animal , which lives outside of human’s field of vision, exhibits fabulous adaptability. After 2014, Wang Zai noticed on Weibo that more and more photos of raccoon dogs were released by Shanghainese. They ran by in the night, occasionally stopping because of curiosity. In a certain spring, someone even photographed a mother beast with three or four small beasts-the raccoon dog.
Japanese animation “Heisei Tanuki Battle”
The raccoon came back, then?
For more than a year, Wang Fang wanted to learn about this close animal, but found that the information he could call was very limited. The most important data comes from Dr. Xu Zhengqiang from Shanghai Zoo. He found the whereabouts of raccoon dogs in more than 40 communities in Minhang, Songjiang and other places in the south of Shanghai. On this basis, Wang further updated the data and expanded the number of districts to as many as 80.
But people know nothing more about this neighbor. The raccoon dog is not a key protected and monitored animal, and the historical data is pitiful. How the raccoon dog in the city adapts to the environment, how to move, how to spread after reproduction, why concentrated in the south, these problems need more data and observations to further explain.
However, the first step of accumulating data ran into problems. Wang Fang found that installing infrared cameras in cities was particularly troublesome.
Cities are no less wild than wilderness. A large number of communities, schools, factories and other units constitute a forbidden area for humans. If you want to observe animals, you have to deal with humans. At the same time, the urban environment is changing greatly. Parks, schools, and communities have different peaks of people flow, and different ecological environments mean that more observations are needed than in the wild, and more people are needed to help.
Photography: Wang Fang
A girl born in the 1980s, Zhu Huiting, came to help, “Everyone said it, rain or shine.” On the day she went out, there was a light rain in Shanghai, a little bit cold.
Zhu Huiting’s destination is Century Park in Pudong. This is the first time she has looked at this place from the perspective of an animal researcher: it is clean and tidy, every lawn, every flower bed, every nursery has been carefully designed and repaired. The lawn is rarely trampled on-this is human respect for the rules rather than the nature, you can hardly imagine the yellow weasel or raccoon dog running through these unobstructed green areas.
Next, Zhu Huiting will choose a corner of the park to place an infrared camera. Like most participants, this is her first exposure to an infrared camera. It has a camouflage shell, and can run for 3 to 6 months with 12 AA batteries. Whenever warm-blooded animals such as mammals and birds pass by, it will be triggered by the temperature difference between the animal and the environment and shoot automatically Photos and a short video.
This is a citizen scientist activity initiated by Wang Fanghe Shanshui Nature Conservation Center in December 2019. A fund company sponsored 80 infrared cameras, and the WWF “One Yangtze River” project supported other costs. The first observation sites were selected in five parks in Shanghai. Participants such as Zhu Huiting are responsible for setting up cameras, collecting photos, and identifying species, which will become the basic data for future scientific research.
“Citizen scientists” (Citizen Scientist) concept was born in 1995, put forward by the British sociologist Alan Irwin, to replace the word “amateur scientist.” An article published in the journal “Annual Review of Ecology and System Taxonomy” in 2010 described the role of citizen scientists as follows:
” The geographical scope of many basic ecological processes is very large, which is beyond the reach of ordinary research methods. Citizen science may be the only feasible method. They can spread across large areas and record changes in the distribution range of species, migration patterns, and spread of infectious diseases. , Large-scale ethnic trends, and the impact of environmental processes such as landscape and climate changes.”
Wu Yigan, a trainee of the Shanshui Nature Conservation Center, said that in the past, parent-child families were the main force in outdoor observation activities, and they thought this time was no exception. Of the 100 finalists, less than 1/3 are parent-child combinations.
Participants’ resumes are generally good, and their education level is above university. Their professions are not the same. Environmental industry practitioners such as Zhai Xiaoxin, foreign trade company employees such as Zhu Huiting, as well as lawyers, doctors and civil servants, their common feature is their interest in nature.
Wu Yiqian demonstrates how to place the camera for the participants (Photo: Wang Fang)
Wang Fang is a conservation biologist. In the past, his projects were mainly carried out in the wilderness. He went to the Qinling Mountains to track wild brown pandas, went to Shennongjia to observe golden monkeys, and found takins on the Motianling ridgeline of Minshan Mountain. In recent years, he has watched his observation object become an Internet celebrity -panda has thousands of fans, eating bamboo and climbing a shelf can be searched on Weibo; Tuxi and Tibetan fox are made funny Emoticons; big cats such as snow leopards and caracal cats have entered the list of sucking cats, and countless people claim that they are so cute to death.
But this kind of love is more like Ye Gonghaolong. Once a wild animal is found at the door of the house, people are most worried about whether it will hurt themselves. The most outrageous thing is that in the spring after the epidemic, the Wildlife Conservation and Management Station of Minhang District, Shanghai, was dispatched six times in one day-there are always residents asking to come and drive away wintering bats around.
But Zhu Huiting is different. The whole Shanghai is her zoo and botanical garden. She had seen wild raccoons sneaking past by the Swan Lake in the zoo, and she had also found a weasel passing by quietly in the corner of the community with a flashlight, “like a big fried dough stick”. On one morning in May 2020, she was pleasantly surprised to find a cotta orchid on the lawn from the subway station to the company. This is a plant that has been included in the key protection list.
Another citizen scientist, Zhai Xiaoxin, is an activist who has been engaged in nature education all year round. In the past year, he participated in several environmental protection actions to remove bird nets, cut the dead bodies of birds from the nets, broke the bamboo poles, and rolled up the nets.
Today, these nature lovers and environmentalists have become Wang Fang’s partners.
In the workshop before the camera was placed, Wu Yiqian and Fudan’s team arranged the next task for the volunteers: the camera should be placed on the road that animals often pass by for food or drinking water—near animal trails, and frequent humans should be avoided. For activities, the field of view should be relatively open, and should not be blocked by large-scale shrubs and weeds; then, find a tree that is strong enough and tie the camera to a height of forty to fifty centimeters above the ground, with the lens facing down slightly.
After a few laps in the park, Zhu Huiting chose a spot on the edge of the lawn in the southwest corner. This is a small piece of grass that has not been repaired for a long time, and there is a bush octagonal gold plate nearby. The grass is far away from the trail, and the winter in Shanghai is rainy and rainy. She guessed that it is unlikely that anyone would be willing to walk here on a muddy foot.
Zhai Xiaoxin found a suitable area in Gucun Park in the northwest of the city. Here bushes and woodland border, close to the waters, and almost no one will set foot except for anglers. He guessed that the animals would pass by to drink water.
The place has been found, but the actual problem has arisen. Someone forgot to turn on the camera and tied the camera to a tree, and needed to reopen it with pliers; somebody locked the camera box before completing the setting, and subsequent data analysis would have problems.
Photography: Wang Fang
“Isn’t this the price of a hobby?”
With the camera placed, the next step is to observe. In the process, participants continue to find that “strange knowledge has increased.”
For example, Zhai Xiaoxin, he knew that crows had an IQ advantage, but he never thought that a magpie could be so smart.
At noon on January 26, 2020, a magpie with a black back and white belly and wings glowing with bluish-green light walked past Zhai Xiaoxin’s camera, stepping on fallen leaves, with a mouse between its beaks-the image is not clear, but Enough to see the outlines of rat tails and ears. The magpie went under the tree, put the mouse beside the root of the tree, took up a few leaves, and covered the mouse.
Three hours later, the magpies came for afternoon tea. It walked back to the treasure area without hesitation, opened the leaf, picked up the mouse and walked to the center of the video, held the mouse with its left paw, and lowered its head and began to tear the food.
A feast of eating and broadcasting. Zhai Xiaoxin repeatedly watched two ten-second videos with one hiding and one digging. Before that, he often went to the countryside and wetlands to watch the birds looking for food and flying in front of him, but only now did he really “know” a magpie.
Magpie Tibetan food (Photo courtesy: Zhai Xiaoxin)
Three hours later, the magpie returned to feed (Photo courtesy: Zhai Xiaoxin)
The small theater under the lens is constantly staged: two northeastern hedgehogs meet in the grass, touch their noses and move forward separately; a pair of mother and child turtledoves have been foraging in front of the camera for many days, and the fluff on the necks of the young birds has not yet grown spots ; A yellow ferret with its nose shrunk, penetrating its head and passing by; a white-bellied thrush is shoveling earthworms in the soil.
Two Northeast hedgehogs meeting at night (Photo courtesy: Zhu Huiting)
The plague slowed the process of the entire activity, and the recovery work was changed from collective activities to individuals. On March 22, 2020, Zhai Xiaoxin and Zhu Huiting returned to the storage point to retrieve the camera as soon as the park resumed its opening. Zhai Xiaoxin took the computer, found a bench and sat down and started to browse the photos. Zhu Huiting spent 5 that night. I rummaged through every photo in hours. Since March 2020, more than 20 cameras have been returned to volunteers, and more than 10,000 photos have been collected.
But the next work became boring. Participants need to read all the photos and import the form; fill in the video number, identify and fill in the animals that appear in it.
There are a large number of empty mirrors left by accidental touches when the light changes. In a video of about 20 seconds, the animals usually only appear for three to five seconds. In the blank cutscene, only the branches and leaves are shaking, and the wind and the sun are opposite. In addition, there are a large number of waste films-a cat family unfortunately lives near a volunteer’s camera, so the memory card becomes a photo of the cat’s life.
A yellow ferret ran through the grass (Photo courtesy: Zhu Huiting)
Citizen scientists are facing boring copywriting work at this time. Zhu Huiting and Zhai Xiaoxin spent at least 8 hours on this work. “By this time, you probably know what the work of scholars is like.”
The time to take the camera and identify the species is not a cost that everyone is willing to bear. Some people become silent in the group chat until they withdraw from the project. The camera they left behind will be taken over by the new member; Zhu Huiting is willing to spend time for these wonderful moments, “Hobbies are things you are willing to pay for.” She concluded.
Answer a question about raccoon dogs
Of the more than 20 cameras recovered, 15 were qualified. In the documents submitted by the volunteers, the accuracy of species identification was also satisfactory. Through these photos, videos and data, some questions about urban animals have been answered.
The feeding activity of Qiu Snipe (Photo courtesy: Wu Yiqian)
After checking Weibo around 2017, Wang Fang found that some raccoons are becoming raccoons, and in some communities, more than 20 animals can be photographed in one night. But in 2018, the raccoon dog seemed to be suddenly hidden in the snow, and its exposure on social media declined, only appearing once or twice a night.
Wang Fang wanted to find out why the raccoon dog disappeared. He guessed that the cause was scabies mites -he had seen their mottled fur in dimly lit photos posted by Weibo users, which seemed to be a symptom of scabies mites. Scabies mites are a skin disease that often entangles stray cats and dogs. It is not fatal. However, animals infected with this parasite will shed a lot of hair, skin ulcers, and lose weight. They are on the verge of death in the winter with low temperature and low food.
Today, photos taken by citizen scientists record this more clearly. At 1:58 on February 13, 2020, a skinny raccoon passed by the camera in Minhang Sports Park. Its thin right body was photographed by the camera, and its short, bald hair showed that it seemed to be infected with scabies mites. This point has yet to be confirmed.
A raccoon suspected of suffering from scabies (photo courtesy: Wu Yiqian)
Another finding concerns the hibernation behavior of raccoon dogs. “Prior to this, it was generally recognized that raccoon dogs would hibernate, but the temperature in Shanghai is not too low. The raccoon dogs may only fake hibernation and go out for food when the weather is good. ” Wang Fang said, and the two raccoon dogs were photographed this time. Confirmed this.
One night in January 2020, a raccoon dog crawling through Pujiang Country Park in the early morning. The lens exposure is unstable, but the thick winter hair, broad cheeks and short legs reveal the identity of the nightcrawler.
Nocturnal raccoon (photo courtesy: Wu Yiqian)
Not just raccoon dogs. The images recorded by more than 20 cameras have constructed a previously unknown wilderness Shanghai. Here, a puddle left by heavy rains, a neem tree with falling fruits, and a piece of fallen wood will bring a piece of life. And this may provide inspiration for the construction of urban ecology in the future-the city’s riverbanks are slower, the puddles are more, and the fallen wood is no longer garbage. These small details will leave more gaps for the survival of urban animals.
Observing nature in the past often meant hard work alone, but citizen scientists turned it into a collective enterprise for like-minded people. Perhaps one day, everyone can become a scientist and work together to find answers to various ecological research problems in the city.
In Europe and America, the increasingly popular concept of citizen scientist has become an important part of scientific research. Bird lovers who watch birds from nearby feeding stations and share information, monitor sewage discharge for the community, and help improve water quality are all citizen scientists. . In the winter of 2012, citizen scientists discovered that the number of snowy owls migrating from the Arctic to 40 states in the United States was unexpectedly high, so all the sighting reports were compiled on the website of the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory.
“It seems to be a living thing, growing on its own.” Wang Fang described it.
According to him, the data collected by citizen scientists will be made public in the future so that all institutions can participate in research. “If we don’t give citizen scientists money, we will not monopolize this data.” He believes that for professional researchers, this In a sense, it is also an incentive, “means that our research should be done faster.”
Posted by:CoinYuppie，Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/wilder-shanghai-the-raccoon-is-home/
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