Protecting swans on Qinghai Lake -- a young lama's passion

08:47, March 29, 2011      

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"Every year, when the snow comes, the big swans fly here. In the spring, when the snow and ice melt, they fly away," said a lama in a monastery near Qinghai Lake in northwest China's Qinghai Province, in his self-made documentary narrated in the Tibetan language.

"When I look at the big swans, I have the same feelings when I look at the Buddha figures," said Dripa, a 33-year-old lama at the Ga'rila Temple in Trelnag Village in Gonghe County, Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

Dripa first saw large swans on Qinghai Lake at the age of 15 when he became a lama of the temple located near the lake. "They were so beautiful. I could not think, I was simply staring," he told Xinhua.

He started visiting the lake to watch the swans regularly since that year. In 2008, a non-governmental environmental conservation organization called Shan Shui, which literally means water and mountains, heard about him.

The organization and the Qinghai Lake Administration jointly held a special training program for local residents on protecting the environment and wild animals. Dripa was invited to the program, and he learned about basic knowledge of Qinghai Lake's wildlife, photography and monitoring methods.

From then on, Dripa started to record, in detail, the birds on the lake. He designed a table to record the number and behavior of different species, especially the swans.

"Swans are timid. They fly away when humans approach. But they are not scared of me," he said, with a shy smile, speaking in Mandarin. "They see you as friends when you are with me," he told Xinhua.

The young lama goes to the lake every two or three days and stays at the shore for two to three hours each time.

"I think nothing in my mind. The world is quiet," he said, standing still by the lake, staring at the swans, with the wind blowing through his red robe.

He watched the swans far away with a telescope for some minutes, and then turned back, saying, "42. There are 42 swans."

He learned to take photos and videos of the white birds with a digital camera and a video camera, respectively, and restore the pictures on a laptop computer. All the equipment was provided by the organization and the administration.

He also bought a printer to print the swan photos and plans to buy a new camera. Dripa said he had taken a fancy to a 20,000-yuan-camera.

"I do not have that much money. I borrow some from my friend," said the lama, who lives with his elderly grandmother, and his only income is from small donations from villagers.

"It will take me years to pay off. I love photographing," he said.

He has taken thousands of photos of his beloved birds. His favorite picture is of two swans crossing their necks on the lake. "I see love in the picture," he said.

Dripa says the best time to take photos is the morning when the temperature is below zero, even though it is difficult to operate the camera in the cold. Sometimes he has to warm the the battery with his hands.

"I went to see the swans on the very first morning of the new year, and then I came home to greet my family members and lamas in the temple," he said.

Dripa, however, does more than record swans. He also picks up garbage by the lake in the summer when the tourism season comes with other lamas helping him. The number of swans in the lake had reached 4,000 this winter.

"To protect the environment, we mainly rely on the local residents, especially the Tibetan people, as they really love the place they live," said He Yubang, director of the Qinghai Lake Administration.

He said the administration had recruited more than 30 volunteers, mostly Tibetan herdsmen, to help protect the wildlife and report on damage around the lake to the administration.

"We have many, many other Dripas across the country," said Lu Zhi, founder of the Shan Shui.

"Human being are damaging nature in many ways, including polluting waters, digging wild herbs and hunting wild animals. These will lead to serious consequences for our environment," Dripa said in his 15-minute-documentary.

In the short video, lamas are holding ceremonies under the blue sky, children are riding bicycles and playing games, villagers are yelling when riding horses in a competition....and swans are flying over the lake.

"The big swans fly up when the lamas blow the trumpet shells in the temple. The beautiful sounds of the shells and the swans interlace with each other and resound across the heavens,"Dripa said in the video.

"To cherish and protect the lovely birds will be tied to my life. To live with them is my life-long wish," he said.

(Xinhua reporters Chen Guozhou and Hu Xing also contributed to the story. )

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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(Editor:梁军)

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