China / Society

Across China: Power workers protect storks' high-voltage, high-risk home

By Xinhua (Xinhua) Updated: 2016-05-20 16:00

NANCHANG - Power grid maintenance worker Hu Lin was more than a little surprised to find the nest of an oriental white stork, an endangered species and one of China's "most protected" on the top of a utility pole on his beat in rural Jiangxi province.

In the nest were four chicks, still too young to be able to flap, Hu said.

"Normally, we remove bird nests because the droppings can damage the insulators on the power line," he said, but in this case Hu and his colleagues decided to wait for a month for the nestlings to fledge. Stork chicks are able to fly at about 50 days old, according to the ornithologist who the team consulted.

The oriental white stork is a highly endangered species. The whole wild population is no more than about 5,000.

Conservationist Ji Yongping said it is rare to see the storks in China at this time of year. They are migratory and tend to winter on Poyang Lake and fly north to breed.

Yingtan Power, owner of the pole which the stork family now calls home, plans to step up patrols of the section of line and and keep the insulators free from guano, ensuring the safety of both power supply and the rare birds.

Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China, in Jiangxi province is renowned for its rich fishing and birdlife. Some 700,000 migratory birds, including storks, cranes, egrets and wild geese, arrive from Siberia, Mongolia, Japan and northern China in late September and stay until April.

Last year, Jiangxi began a trial in environmental compensation. As drought and over-exploitation threaten the lake's resources, local people have become more aware of the importance of protecting wildlife. Around 10,000 people who live around the lake have been compensated for loss of earnings as a result of improved protection of waterfowl.

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