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Feature ... ...
    Bird protector guards wetland
Wen Jiao
2006-03-18 07:22

MENGJIN, Henan: In the Yellow River Wetland Reserve in Mengjin County, Central China's Henan Province, Zhang Huiduan was patrolling along the riverbank on the snow on a freezing day early last month.

The 66-year-old has been working as a bird protector for 10 years, since his hometown was annexed to Yellow River Wetland Reserve in 1995.

The reserve, covering an area of 37,000 acres, consists of main stream channels, ancient geological gorges, farmlands, woodlands, and lotus rhizome ponds. It has a wide water area and numerous hydrophytes water plants and aquatics, which makes it a heaven for migratory birds wintering in the area.

Every morning after breakfast, Zhang goes on his tour of inspection by bicycle from Tiexie section to Xixiayuan area along the bank of the Yellow River. He keeps a working log, recording when, where, and how many birds he sees each time.

Observing birds is a work loaded down with trivial details. Once it rains, the bicycle cannot work because of the muddy riverbank, and Zhang will have to patrol for about 31 kilometres on foot. He wears out several pairs of shoes every year, while his wage is barely 100 yuan (US$12) per month.

Zhang said: "If we all deny the job because it is unprofitable, then who is going to protect the birds here?"

To ensure the safety of birds in the wetland, Zhang has endured countless hardships, let alone the complaints.

As the number of birds dwelling around the wetland increases, the birds would peck crops when they could not get enough food.

The rapidity that birds pecked the plant was surprising they were capable of eating up a cornfield of 0.12 acre within an hour.

Villagers were choked with silent fury as they could neither shoot the birds nor poison them because of animal conservation regulation, so they often vented their anger on Zhang.

However, what bothered Zhang was not the constant gripes but spoiled crops. "If only the State could legislate for compensating the spoiled crops around the reserve," he said.

Zhang went through sorrow in his job as well as joy. The nature reserve has recorded 202 species of birds. Pointing to the birds frolicking on the water, he said proudly that it was his precinct that accommodated the most birds. There were swans gliding about in the water and soaring in the sky; widgeons alternating between looking for food in the river and swimming light-heartedly.

Before long, a great congregation of birds flew over. According to Zhang, it was wild geese that came back for a drink after dinner.

Zhang set up a blackboard in front of his house, on which he publicized the importance of environmental protection and knowledge about how to protect birds.

Because of his persistent efforts, people around the neighbourhoods are increasingly conscious of bird protection.

The local police have also strengthened measures to forbid poaching, which Zhang said is another reason for the increase of the bird population.

(China Daily 03/18/2006 page9)


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