Ensuring birds have a safe passage and that poachers take flight

China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-25 11:46
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Migratory birds, such as Eurasian spoonbills and great cormorants, gather at the wetlands of the eastern Dongting Lake in Yueyang for this year's wintering. GUO LILIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

The day starts early for Tang Shengli, a bird protection volunteer in Lanshan county, Yongzhou, Hunan province. At about 5 am, the 60-year-old is in uniform and ready to start his day's work protecting and recording migratory birds. Located on the northern side of the Nanling Mountains, Lanshan is an important passageway for migratory flocks.

From September to December every year, more than 240 species of migratory birds fly from Siberia to Australia via Hunan. In the past 10 years, Tang has recorded more than 120 species of such birds with his camera.

"The flight calls of the migratory birds at night attract me so much that I cannot sleep. All I want to do is get up and record them," Tang says.

When Tang joined the Hunan provincial bird protection organization in 2013, he knew he faced a tough task.

Numerous migratory birds were lost each year as a result of killing and illegal trade. At that time, poachers lit up the hillside to lure the birds off course and hunt them.

Some nights hundreds of birds would be killed or caught, remembers Liao Changgui, an official with the local forestry bureau.

By day, Tang distributes brochures to villagers in Lanshan to raise public awareness of bird protection, while at night, he goes deep into the wilderness to tackle illegal hunting.

"Many villagers didn't think bird hunting was illegal, and some made a living from it. Our work has affected their business," Tang explains, adding his wife was threatened at their home in a bid to stop him doing his work.

To curb poaching, in October 2012, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration issued a notice to prohibit the illegal hunting of migratory birds. In December that year, the Hunan provincial government vowed to crack down on rampant poaching and establish a bird monitoring and protection system.

So far, 43 migratory bird protection stations have been built across the province, covering almost all key points on the passageway.

In 2020, a "lights out" program was initiated in Lanshan county to prevent the birds from being distracted.

On Nov 1, the Hunan provincial government issued a ban on hunting migratory birds and other wildlife listed under national and provincial protection.

Nationwide, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration is carrying out a two-month special action plan to strengthen patrols and remove illegal hunting equipment in national parks, nature reserves and bird migration routes across the country.

A migratory birds' protection station in Lanshan county, Hunan province. There are 43 such stations across Hunan. GUO LILIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY
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