Bird advocate gives greener habitat a wing
BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) – Ren Guoxia began his riverside patrol on the outskirts of Beijing at dawn. Looking through her binoculars, she counted the black storks, among other rare birds, and quickly took notes.
The pure love of birds prompted the 45-year-old Ren to stop selling vegetables and devote himself to bird conservation. She has been working as a bird watcher and protector for six years now in the Fangshan district located southwest of Beijing.
Dubbed “the home of black storks in China,” Fangshan has seen a steady increase in the endangered bird’s population thanks to its lush green forests, clear, shallow waters, and abundant fish and shrimp.
“Black storks are demanding and picky about their living environment,” said Ji Jianwei, deputy director of the Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
According to the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau, only 1,000 black storks live in China while there are around 100 in Fangshan.
To better protect birds, the office formed a 10-member wild bird watch squad in 2014. Given his enthusiasm for birds since childhood, Ren applied for the position without hesitation.
As a full-time wildlife advocate, Ren is responsible for monitoring any anomalies, such as an outbreak or wildlife poaching. She travels dozens of kilometers on a three-wheeled motorcycle daily as part of her job.
Thanks to her years of experience, she is able to identify different bird species and their behaviors with just a glance from a distance.
The work is repetitive and can lead to steam. But, the improvement in the living conditions of the birds, especially the increase in black storks, induces a sense of accomplishment, helping Ren to fight the monotony.
The population of black storks has grown from 50-60 a few years ago to over 100 this spring, and they can be seen in many other districts of the capital as well, according to official data.
Ren said she got to know one of the black storks. “I call him ‘Xiaohei’ (Little Black); I am not afraid of myself even when I approach it. We meet almost every day, ”she said, adding that animals and humans can certainly live in harmony.
After work, she often shares her knowledge about birds with her family and friends, helping them learn more about these species.
“Although some older generations in the neighboring village used to hunt birds for food, this practice no longer exists,” Ren said. “Villagers are now even helping send injured birds to the wildlife conservation center.”
The local volunteer bird protection community organizes people to release fish and shrimp into the river so that the birds can feed on them in winters when there is a food shortage.
“Conservation efforts have been intensified during the pandemic, including increasing the scope of inspection and surveillance, to better protect wildlife,” said Wang Jiachen, a staff member of Fangshan Gardening and Greening Bureau.
Gao Wu, associate professor at Peking Normal University, noted that the black stork population could serve as a barometer of a region’s biodiversity and ecological status, and that their move to Beijing marks an improvement in its natural environment.
Statistics from the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau showed that the city has added 11,000 hectares of wetlands in the past five years, bringing its total wetland area to 58,700 hectares.
Beijing has 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 here in person rather than just watching them on TV, ”Ren said.