Global Times interview with one of the stars of 'Return to the Wolves'

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/22 19:13:10

Green and Li Weiyi on the grasslands Photo: Courtesy of Youth Enlight


Green on the grasslands Photo: Courtesy of Youth Enlight


Seven years since Li Weiyi set her son-like young wolf free, she still clearly recalls the days with him.

On Tuesday, the Global Times interviewed Li Weiyi, the star of Return to the Wolves. The film, which became the highest-earning Chinese film the weekend of its debut, details how Li, an artist, found an orphaned wolf cub and then helped prepare it for a return to its natural habitat. Li shared with the Global Times more details of how she met the film's other star - the wolf cub Green.

"One day a big he-wolf snuck into a sheepfold and stole a sheep for its cubs… Over the next few days, huntsmen put down traps to catch the wolf. Eventually one of the traps turned up a bloody paw. Following the smell of blood, hounds guided their owners to the injured wolf, which they soon killed.

"However, from that day on, the mother wolf howled every night near the village and went to kill the sheep in revenge, which left the villagers feeling very scared.

"Therefore, the villagers decide to kill the mother wolf as well. They put out poisoned meat, because they thought that would be the best way to kill the wolf while keeping her fur in good condition so they could see it later. To their surprise, while the mother wolf did eat the poisoned meat, she scratched her own skin up before death," Li said, relaying the story she heard from a local herdsman.

After hearing the story, Li wanted to find the wolf cubs. After three days of searching she finally found them, but only one was still alive.

Days in the city

Li named the cub Green, after the color of its eyes. Green lived with Li's dog Huli, but the more the cub grew, the more apparent it became that Green was far different than the dog. Green would only eat meat instead of dog food. And while Huli had learned to fetch slippers, shake hands and other tricks over the five years it had spent with Li, the only thing Green had learned was how to catch fish from the local pond a few days after watching a show on TV about wolves catching fish. Li eventually lost count of all the fish she bought to replace the fish that Green took from the pond.

Trouble didn't just end there.

One time after Green was almost run over by an electric scooter, the young wolf cub chased down the scooter in anger. Fortunately, Green only attacked the scooter's tires and not its rider.

Afraid that Green might hurt people, Li tried putting a collar on Green. But whenever the cub was chained up this way, it refused to move even if Li pulled so hard she ended up dragging the wolf across the floor.

After snapping quite a few leashes by refusing to budge, Green eventually gave in and was willing to walk around with the leash on, but only if it meant the wolf was the one who chose where to go. In a way it was as if Green was taking Li for a walk instead of the other way around. 

Green's howling at night led to complaints from Li's neighbors and in protest some people would dump trash or dog poop on Li's doorstep.

Li's friend Yifeng suggested that Green be sent to the local zoo, but Li refused to do so since she felt that zoos were basically concentration camps for animals.

Eventually Li realized that Green had to be returned to the wild. The problem was that she didn't know of any successful case in which a wolf that had been raised by a human had survived being returned back to nature.

According to Jiang Rong, author of the popular novel Wolf Totem and who raised a wolf in the 1960s on his own, a wolf that never learned to hunt or defend itself wouldn't have much of a chance to survive in the wilderness without a pack. However, most packs are unwilling to accept a strange wolf into their group and sometimes even go as far as to attack those whose behaviors are too different than their own.

This fact worried Li a lot since she noticed that after living with Huli, Green would sometimes bark like a dog. To remedy the situation, she sought out audio of wolves howling which she played for Green so it could learn the language of its kind.

Back to the grasslands

When Li, Yifeng and Green returned to the grasslands, Green was two months old. Instead of leaving Green alone, Li stayed to train the cub how to hunt.

During the first few months, Green often found itself the loser in play fights with Tibetan mastiffs, but through these battles Green learned to react more quickly.

In Li's opinion, one of the biggest threats to Green's safety was from humans, especially since Green was not afraid of people after growing up around them. For instance, one time when a local herdsman threw a hammer at Green to scare him away, the wolf thought the man was trying to play a game with it.

So Li began introducing Green to the different traps that hunters used.

"Remember this will kill you," Li told Green.

Winter eventually arrived. This was a good time to introduce Green to a new pack, because this was the season they were usually most willing to take in new members. To look for a local pack, Li and Yifeng made camp high in the mountains to get as close as possible to the place where wolves lived.

While Green took off with one of the wolves one day, he returned a few days later with a hurt leg. It seemed that Green had not been accepted by the wolf.

The two considered bringing the young wolf back to the city, but reconsidered after she saw the cub with a leash around its neck. For her, a short life of freedom was more important than a long life in captivity.

After Green healed, the wolf finally found a pack willing to accept it. After a month, Li finally left the grasslands when she saw Green hunting with the pack.

Years later, she would return to the grasslands again, where she once again saw a much older Green now leading the pack. 


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