Population of endangered black-headed gulls exceeds 10,000 mark in NE China’s coastal city of Panjin

(People's Daily Online) 11:24, May 17, 2022

The population of Saunders’s gulls, or black-headed gulls, an endangered bird species, has increased from some 1,000 in the 1990s to more than 10,000 at present in Panjin, a coastal city in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, thanks to enhanced conservation efforts.

Photo taken on May 5, 2022 shows a black-headed gull flying over the Liaohekou wetland in Panjin city, northeast China’s Liaoning Province. (Xinhua/Yang Qing)

The migratory birds have been included by the International Center for Birds of Prey (ICBP) in the red book of the world’s endangered birds.

In 1990, David Melville, a bird expert with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) discovered that the Liaohekou wetland in Panjin was the breeding area for black-headed gulls.

One year later, Li Yuxiang, a fresh college graduate, became one of the earliest members of a monitoring team for the migratory birds in the city. Li has been dedicated to the protection of the species since then, and now serves as director of the city’s forestry and wetland conservation service center.

“Black-headed gulls are an endangered bird and are under first-class state protection in China,” Li said, adding that the protection of and research on the species are of vital significance.

However, the number of black-headed gulls was declining year-by-year back then, due to the shrinking area of wetlands. In the early 1990s, only 2,000 or so black-headed gulls had been spotted across the world, and Panjin, the largest breeding area for the species, had only around 1,200 black-headed gulls.

The year 1991 also saw the establishment of the Saunders’ Gull Conservation Society, an organization dedicated to protecting black-headed gulls initiated by Liu Detian, a local media worker.

To better protect black-headed gulls, the Panjin municipal government allocated 4.1 million yuan (about $603,073) to build an artificial breeding ground for the species in 1993. It set up the Nanxiaohe protection station for the species in 2004 and built breeding grounds spanning 9,100 mu (about 606.7 hectares).

The need to continue protecting black-headed gulls has become a point of consensus among citizens in Panjin over the course of its past 30-plus years’ history. At present, the Saunders’ Gull Conservation Society has more than 40,000 members.

The sound protection of black-headed gulls in Panjin epitomizes both the city and the province’s efforts in ecological conservation.

In 2015, Panjin began implementing a project to restore its surrounding wetland ecology. As of 2021, the city had restored 85,900 mu of wetlands and 15.77 kilometers of natural coastlines. At present, the city has 2,165 square kilometers of natural wetlands, which provide habitats for over 300 species of rare birds.

Liaoning has so far built 264 natural protected areas, including 98 nature reserves. With a total area of 25,200 square kilometers, these natural protected areas provide habitats for 75 percent of national key protected bird species in China. 

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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