Across China: Preparing a feast for wintering Siberian cranes
NANCHANG, April 29 (Xinhua) -- Zhou Haiyan, who is in charge of the Wuxing Siberian crane protection zone in Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province, has prepared a surprise half a year in advance for the wintering birds.
Seeds of lotus root weighing 350,000 kg in total are about to be planted this year in the protection zone, or the Wuxing Farm on the river-laced south shore of Poyang Lake, which is expected to provide enough food for the cranes in winter.
"Funding for the lotus root field was the biggest problem three years ago," Zhou recalled. Zhou, then a photography enthusiast, launched an initiative to build the country's first privately-funded Siberian crane protection zone that combines the functions of scientific research, education and photography.
Reputed as "man's closest place to Siberian cranes," the farm usually attracts thousands of white cranes during the peak period, which can be observed at a minimum range of only dozens of meters.
"Cranes that wintered here last year have just migrated northward," Zhou said. She has already missed them not long after the separation, frequently reviewing pictures and videos she had taken before and sharing their graceful flight and postures with others on the Internet.
The Siberian cranes were first found foraging in the lotus root field of the farm in 2012, as Poyang Lake entered a prolonged dry season early that year, which caused a decrease in the population of the winter buds, a traditional diet of the cranes.
"Lotus roots are rich in starch, which happen to be preferred by the cranes, and the plants can be easily found in the farm," said Dai Nianhua, a researcher with the institute of bioresource under Jiangxi Academy of Sciences.
To satisfy the picky cranes, the farm has purchased better lotus root seeds from Hubei and Anhui provinces this year, with the ripe fruit having a more savory, crispy, and crunchy taste, Zhou said.
"The forestry department has allocated the project fund for wetland restoration to purchase the seeds, and the local government is responsible for infrastructure renovation of the farm," she added.
Rated as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, the Siberian crane only numbers around 4,000 on earth, with just a single migrating route left for them on the planet.
About 98 percent of its population spend their winter in Poyang Lake now, and the farm provides an important food source for up to nearly one-third of the total population of the bird species.
"For now, the most important thing for us is to plant the lotus root seeds," Zhou said. "We regard the cranes as our 'kids,' and look forward to their homecoming this winter."