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|Saturday, September 09, 2000, updated at 18:29(GMT+8)|
China Protects World Largest Winter Habitat for CranesThe world's largest winter habitat for black-neck cranes has been well protected in China's southwest Yunnan Province. Located in the northeast of Yunnan at 3,200 meters above sea level, the Dashanbao Black-Neck Crane Nature Reserve is the largest of its kind.
It has been increased in area from 4,000 hectares to 20,000 hectares and its winter visitors -- black-neck cranes have also increased since it was set up 10 years ago, according to Zhong Xingyao, local forestry bureau director of Zhaotong.
The Black-neck crane, a worldwide endangered wildlife species, is a rare bird that inhabits tablelands. Its tall and beautiful figure makes it valuable for bird-watching and scientific research. In China, it can only be seen in remote areas of Qinghai, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou provinces and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
In the early stage of the reserve, local farmers knew little about the importance of protecting the cranes. They used to poach and kill the cranes. The reserve workers spared no efforts to increase awareness about protecting wildlife, especially among farmers and their families, Zhong said.
The local government has made decrees to ban hunting, damaging swamps, and farming by deforestation in the reserve area, and to give cash rewards to local farmers who save and cure ill or hurt cranes and those who report poaching and killing.
There have been no recent reports of cranes being killed in the reserve area.
"Cranes often fly here to eat our potatoes and corn. We just drive them away and not hurt them, because the government will compensate our losses," Li Youfa, a local farmer, said.
Statistics show that more black-neck cranes are choosing the reserve area as their winter habitat, increasing from 200 some 10 years ago to over 800 today. They even prefer to stay in the reserve for a longer periods, usually coming in early November and not leaving until March or April.
A program official with an international crane foundation was highly complimentary after his inspection tour of the nature reserve, saying, "Yunnan has made valuable contributions to the protection of black-neck cranes."
On the other hand, the increasing numbers of cranes have given rise to conflicts over sharing swamps between the cranes and local farmers. Zhaotong where the reserve is located, is one of China's poverty-stricken areas, and most local farmers are still facing problems in terms of food and clothing.
Moreover, as the human population grows, farmers in and near the reserve are expanding farmland area, and some are even beginning to reclaim swamps, which pose a threat to the cranes' life.
To tackle the conflict, the local government decided to move some farmers, making more space for the cranes. Over 1,000 people moved out of the reserve area last year and a total of 5,000 will move out within three years, decreasing by more than one-third from the present 14,000 residents living in the area, local officials said.
The evacuation will not only help local people fight poverty, but also enable full protection and management over the core area of the reserve, hence creating a better winter habitat for black-neck cranes, the experts said.
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