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Bird rescuer recalls 2,000-km wild goose chase

China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-30 07:56
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Wild geese are at rest at the middle and lower reaches of Tumenjiang River in Dec 2017.[Photo provided to]

Tian Zhiwei is so determined to protect wild birds that he once drove 2,000 kilometers across six provinces to return a stray wild goose to its migrating flock.

He has been protecting and rescuing wild birds since 2004, when he rescued 14 oriental white storks. Now age 50, he is director of the Wildlife Conservation Association's Daqinghe rescue station in Tangshan, Hebei province.

Tangshan, in the Bohai Bay area, is an important stop for migratory birds flying between East Asia and Australia. Each year, millions of wild birds stop in the city, which has many wetlands and beaches.

In May 2014, Tian spotted an injured bar-headed goose in the reeds. He came to its rescue and raised it along with other wild birds and two geese that are kept at the station. The bird even got a Tibetan name, Zhoima.

"After recovering, Zhoima attempted to fly away to look for its flock, but one week later it returned," Tian said.

To help the bird find its companions, Tian drove more than 2,000 km from Tangshan to Qinghai Lake on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

"Unfortunately, when we arrived, the flock had already migrated south to the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou," he said.

Tian brought Zhoima back to the station, and it has since settled down and mated with a domestic goose that lays about 60 eggs a year. Tian tried to hatch the eggs in the hope of having some young geese, and one gosling finally broke through an eggshell.

"Normally, domestic geese do not fly much, but the mother goose, after spending so much time in the wild, often flies high with her mate," he said.

The Daqinghe station has more than 20 volunteers and is famous among wildlife conservationists. Thanks to his broad knowledge, Tian was invited to participate in the revision of China's wildlife protection laws.

"We hope our work will help increase people's awareness of wildlife protection," he said. "I'm glad to see that poaching wild birds here has greatly decreased in recent years."

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