NE China's environmental restoration brings red-crowned cranes back

(Xinhua) 08:47, June 06, 2022

SHENYANG, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Crawling through thick clumps of reeds and grass, Yu Lian, an ornithologist in northeast China's Liaoning Province, had a pleasant encounter with a 1.5-meter-tall red-crowned crane whose beak clamped a long stem of a reed.

Without the slightest hesitation, the wild crane crouched swiftly and spread and shook its wings, an attacking posture.

Although Yu knew that the pounce of the crane, whose bone density is several times that of human beings, would break his ribs with no difficulty, his delight still outweighed his fear.

Its manifest nesting behavior and unusual vigilance indicated that the red-crowned crane had engaged in breeding, which has not been observed around the estuary of the Daling River, Jinzhou City of Liaoning Province, for 14 years.

The endangered red-crowned crane is under national first-class protection. And the wetlands around the estuary of the Daling River are regarded as one of the southernmost breeding grounds worldwide for these rare birds.

According to Yu, also the vice president of Jinzhou wildlife and wetland protection association, due to environmental changes and human activities, there has been no record of the endangered birds' breeding since 2009 around the estuary of the Daling River.

"We found the first two birdlings were born on May 12 and 13, respectively," said Yu. "After half a month, they grew up a lot and were able to run around."

So far, the breeding process of four pairs of red-crowned cranes had been observed. The birdlings of three pairs had successfully hatched, said Zu Fengkun, director of the local forestry and grassland bureau.

Yu added that red-crowned cranes' low fertility of only two eggs per nest and low survival rate of nestlings led to a slow rate of reproduction.

"Red-crowned cranes are picky about the breeding grounds," said Guo Yumin, a professor from Beijing Forestry University. "They need enough food, good biodiversity, and particularly the safety of the surrounding environment."

The recurrence of natural breeding of the red-crowned cranes in the area demonstrates that the ecological environment of the Daling River estuary has undergone fundamental changes in recent years, becoming suitable for the endangered birds' breeding again, said Guo.

"Ten years ago, when we started the wetland restoration project of the area, it suffered from salinization and coastal erosion. It made it almost a barren beach with sparse vegetation," said Pei Qiang, the general manager of the Daling River estuary wetland park.

"In contrast, now the wetland salinity has been greatly reduced, and reeds have recovered an area of 22 square km, three times larger than before," said Pei.

He added that the wetlands conservation made the area a paradise for wildlife to breed and winter. Over ten species are under national first-class protection, and more than 50 are under second-class protection in the wetland park, including oriental white storks and great bustards (Otis tarda).

Jinzhou City is located along a primary bird migration corridor, welcoming millions of wild migratory birds annually. From 2016 to 2020, local authorities have restored over 2,666 hectares of wetlands, bringing the number of bird species spotted in the city to more than 370. 

(Web editor: Peng Yukai, Hongyu)


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