Feature: Bird conservationist gives wing to greener habitat
BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Ren Guoxia began her riverside patrol in the suburbs of Beijing at dawn. Looking through her binoculars, she counted the black storks, among other rare birds, and quickly took notes.
Sheer love for birds propelled the 45-year-old Ren to quit selling vegetables and take to bird conservation. She has worked as a bird observer and protector for six years now in the Fangshan district located in the southwest of Beijing.
Dubbed as "the home to black storks in China," Fangshan has recorded a steady increase in the population of the endangered bird thanks to its lush green forests, clear shallow water, and abundant fish and shrimps.
"Black storks are demanding and picky when it comes to their living environment," said Ji Jianwei, deputy director of Beijing Wild Life Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
According to Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau, only 1,000 black storks are known to live in China while there are about 100 in Fangshan.
To better protect the birds, the bureau formed a 10-member squad for monitoring wild birds in 2014. Given her enthusiasm for birds since childhood, Ren applied for the job without hesitation.
As a full-time wildlife conservationist, Ren is responsible for monitoring any abnormalities, such as an epidemic outbreak or wildlife poaching. She travels tens of kilometers by a three-wheeled motorcycle every day as part of her job.
Owing to her years of experience, she is able to identify different bird species and their behaviors simply by a glance from afar.
The work is repetitive and could lead to vapidity. But, the improved living condition for birds, especially the rise in black storks, induces a sense of accomplishment, helping Ren battle the monotonousness.
The population of black storks has soared from 50-60 a few years ago to more than 100 this spring, and they can be seen in many other districts of the capital as well, according to official data.
Ren said she has made acquaintance with one of the black storks. "I call it 'Xiaohei' (Little Black); it's not afraid of me even when I approach it. The two of us meet almost every day," she said, adding that animals and human beings can certainly live in harmony.
After work, she often shares her knowledge of birds with her family and friends, helping them to learn more about these species.
"Though some older generations in the nearby village used to hunt birds for food, this practice no longer exists," said Ren. "Villagers now even help send injured birds to the wildlife conservation center."
The local bird protection community established by volunteers organizes people to release fish and shrimps in the river so the birds can feed on them in winters when there is a dearth of food.
"Conservation efforts were ramped up during the pandemic, including increasing the scope of inspection and monitoring, to better protect the wildlife," said Wang Jiachen, a staff member with Fangshan Gardening and Greening Bureau.
Gao Wu, an associate professor at Beijing Normal University, noted that the population of black storks could serve as a barometer of biodiversity and ecological condition of a region and their settling down in Beijing marks the improvement of its natural environment.
Statistics from Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau showed that the city added 11,000 hectares of wetland in the past five years, raising its total wetland area to 58,700 hectares.
Beijing witnessed more than 3.6 million migratory birds from January to November in 2020.
"I can't imagine life without these birds. I hope people could come and see black storks and herons flying around here in person rather than just watching them on television," said Ren. Enditem