Across China: Wetlands relocation benefits both humans and birds
September 19,2022   By:Xinhua
HARBIN, Sept. 19, 2022 -- In the wilderness of grass and reeds, a flock of red-crowned cranes leisurely flies above, while several white cranes dip their bills into the lake to drink at a nature reserve in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
Zhalong National Nature Reserve is home to hundreds of such rare birds, including eight species under national first-class protection. However, several hundred villagers used to dwell in the reserve and earn a living from fishing.
"Cranes and other wild bird species in the reserve live on fish, so they would have to scramble for food if humans overfished," said Xu Hui, a breeder at the reserve.
Villagers also faced harsh living conditions, lacking modern facilities, and poor transport infrastructure, Xu added.
To better protect the rare bird species and improve the lives of villagers, starting from March 2017, around 900 villagers comprising more than 230 households were relocated from the core area of the reserve and resettled in Halawusu Village, Zhalong Town, in Qiqihar City.
"Before the relocation, we lacked electricity, and during summer, we traveled by boat, and when the lakes froze in winter, we could only walk out of the village on the ice surface," said Peng Qingping, a former villager in the reserve.
After moving into new apartments, transport became more convenient, especially for children to go to school and the elderly to see a doctor, Peng added.
"Villagers are also provided with more job options such as working at nearby factories," said Wang Tao, an official with the Halawusu Village.
The relocation also helps protection of the wildlife in the reserve, including red-crowned cranes, dubbed one of the most sensitive indicator species of a wetland ecosystem, said Wang Wenfeng with the reserve's administration bureau.
The reserve has adopted artificial breeding technology to increase the population of red-crowned cranes, with the total number of captive-bred cranes reaching around 600, Wang Wenfeng added.
"Nearly 350 captive-bred red-crowned cranes have integrated into the natural habitats of over 200 wild cranes," Wang Wenfeng noted.
However, their bond with humans continues. Villagers now volunteer to protect and feed the birds in groups, and they often visit the reserve.
"Although we no longer live there, I like to wander around the reserve to see the birds," said Peng.
According to local authorities, all villagers living in the core area of the reserve had been relocated, and they will be followed by another batch of over 3,000 people, scattered around the reserve that covers 210,000 hectares. 
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