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Saving China's endangered duck with funny hair

By LIU MINGTAI, ZHANG YU and RANDY WRIGHT |  China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-21 10:28

I am an endangered Chinese duck — the one with the crazy hair. Like giant pandas, I need human help. Pandas are cute, but I'm cute, too. And I'm fit, not fat. Is it fair that nobody ever mentions how pandas taste? Or that I'm an athlete who flies thousands of kilometers twice a year? I don't mean to complain, but why are pandas getting all the attention?

Along the meandering rivers of China's far northeastern Jilin province, a quirky, tree-dwelling migratory duck, the Chinese merganser, is teetering on the brink of extinction. If they could understand, they wouldn't be happy about it.

This year's eggs have hatched and the adults are now teaching their young how to survive — tricks that have been handed down for 10 million years.

But the bird's fate is uncertain. Only about 2,000 remain, according to experts. Human depredations have taken their toll, mainly through pollution, logging and hunting.

When the trees go, the birds lose their homes. And when their pristine waters go, the sensitive species is pushed to the edge.

That's on top of the usual predators, the snakes, rats and minks whose dining preference is savory little meatballs — a fate that awaits any unwary chick that falls behind its mother or fails to recognize danger.

The merganser's connection to China is nearly as strong as the iconic giant panda, a national treasure whose survival has relied on human intervention.

The tale of the "scaly-sided" Chinese merganser runs parallel: After a string of bad luck in modern times, their days may be numbered. Humans are trying to help, but this may be the stylish ducks' last stand.

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