Across China: Birdwatcher wandering south China's wetlands
HAIKOU, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Lu Gang has just finished recording his observations of waterfowls wintering in China's southernmost province. "People often ask me how many kinds of birds there are in Hainan," he said. "You can know more about the ever-changing number through investigation."
Lu is the founder of the civil Haikou Duotan Wetlands Institute. Duotan, in Chinese characters, stands for a wonderful place of water, woods and marshes.
Hainan launched its regular waterbirds survey in 2003, when Lu, then a college teacher, fell in love with birdwatching.
He joined the Kadoorie Conservation China (KCC) four years later and has been dedicated to environmental protection ever since.
"We find 102 black-faced spoonbills this year, which sets a new record," said the veteran birdwatcher.
Protected under China's Wildlife Protection Law, the black-faced spoonbill is one of the world's most endangered birds and has been listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Lu has wandered around wetlands in Hainan throughout the years, and is familiar with every one of them, no matter large or small.
He knows the shorebirds better -- black-winged stilts, marsh sandpipers, redshanks, Mongolian plovers, red-billed starlings and coucals, you name it.
Lu has gained rich experience through nearly two decades of observation and filming, and can tell one bird from another with a glance through his telescope. He maps the lives of the aquatic birds and introduces their habits to Dong Yuying, a birdwatching volunteer, from time to time.
"I've recognized many new species and learned quite a lot about them," Dong said. "The investigation means a lot to me, and I can't wait to share the joy with my kids when I go back."
Dong has lived in Canada for five years and was on home leave in Hainan when she found that Hainan Bird Watching Society was looking for volunteers. Big on nature, she signed up to get the picture of wetland protection in her hometown.
Birds are highly sensitive to environmental change, which indicates that a greater diversity means a better environment. The bird survey result is a barometer of the health of wetland eco-systems in Hainan, according to Lu.
"Investigations in earlier years were short-handed since there were few birdwatchers in Hainan," Lu said. The increasing number of staff and volunteers in conservation areas has made it possible today to complete the survey by locals.
The State Forestry Administration (now the National Forestry and Grassland Administration) said that wetland in Hainan covered 320,000 hectares by the end of November 2016. The ecological environment of the island is among the best in the country, with waterbird species numbers increasing.
According to his observations, a higher number of 21,297 birds of 65 species were recorded in major habitats on the island last year. However, Lu has every reason to worry since it's still less than half the number in the Mai Po Nature Reserve, known as Hong Kong's “Bird's Paradise.”
Feb. 2 marks the 23rd anniversary of World Wetlands Day, which is annually held to celebrate wetlands, which are lands saturated in water and help maintain biodiversity.
According to statistics, China has over 53 million hectares of wetland and sees an average reduction of 1,980 square kilometers of desertified land per year, compared with an annual increase of 3,436 square kilometers of desertified land in the late 20th century.