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Crane whisperer

By Sun Ye  (

14:16, September 20, 2012

Zhao Xisen has created a strong bond with the hooded cranes at Beijing Zoo, and the perennially tense birds allow Zhao to stroke them.(China Daily/Zhang Wei)

Zhao Xisen has managed to help a pair of hooded cranes at Beijing Zoo conceive after seven years of infertility. Sun Ye finds out more.

After seven years of infertility, the hooded cranes (Grus monacha) at Beijing Zoo are finally able to carry on their family line, with assistance from Zhao Xisen, who is an animal polyglot, vet, animal shrink and crane keeper.

With 30 years of self-taught crane-breeding experience, the mellow-voiced man says the secret of his success is to befriend the cranes. He gets to know them, respect them, and help them.

Over the past years, the 58-year-old Zhao has been documenting, feeding and matchmaking more than 500 cranes of rare species at Beijing Zoo.

"These hooded cranes are extremely watchful and cautious," Zhao says.

He has created such a strong rapport with the birds that the perennially tense white-heads allow Zhao to pat them. Normally, the cranes are so guarded against strangers that they launch themselves at the cage's railings whenever a stranger gets too close.

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