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No flight of fancy for pensioner
By Zheng Yanyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-24 05:36

DALIAN: A pensioner has helped save the lives of thousands of endangered and rare birds and travelled a long, long way to do so.

Wang Zifeng, 62, who has a pension of 500 yuan (US$60) a month, spent his own money - more than 30,000 yuan - combing more than 10,000 kilometres to help law enforcement departments save the birds and catch 300-plus illegal poachers.

"His deeds set a good example to other citizens. It was not easy for him to persist for such a long time," said Jin Ye, an official from the Dalian Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

Wang began his epic journey after hearing in 1993 about the miserable conditions of migratory birds. He decided to do what he could to protect them.

He learned that about 300 varieties or 10 million birds passed by Dalian each spring and autumn.

Sixty species were listed as endangered or rare with many being killed by poachers, an activity often overlooked by corrupt officials, according to Wang.

He made a preliminary investigation of the city's hills, walking 3,000 kilometres in total.

He drew a map showing where the illegal hunting was taking place, with specific signs marking bird, eagle and vulture poaching sites.

In 1994 he retired but continued to try to help the birds. In 1996, he began to keep diaries on hill inspection and bird protection, recording dates, locations, weather, uphill and downhill routes and even detailed sketches.

The 10,000-character 10-year diary is considered to be a valuable reference tool for those dealing with protecting the city's migratory birds.

With Wang's small income and his 96-year-old mother paralyzed in bed, his life is tough.

"I have a lot of things to do everyday and not enough time," he said.

On a typical day, he packs some boiled water, steamed bread and salted vegetables and starts his trek. He also bought a high-power telescope and compass to help find poachers.

At first, he tried to persuade the poachers not to hunt the birds but was not successful. He was even threatened or chased by some with knives.

So he began to seek co-operation to fight the poaching.

He printed materials and wrote signs calling for people to report poachers.

"I cannot do it all myself so I hope more people will realize the importance of bird protection," he told China Daily.

One day he fell in marshland on a hill in the northwestern part of the city and had to take off his clothes to get out.

(China Daily 05/24/2005 page3)

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