Bird guardians of Poyang Lake

CNC
Added On March 8, 2014

A band of eco-warriors are working to protect one of the world's most important habitats for migrating birds.
 
Each Winter China's Poyang Lake is home to nearly 200,000 species. These rangers are at the frontline standing between them and the poachers who hunt them.
 
Let's find out more.
 
Amid sprawling grasslands and picturesque lakes stands Luo Hao's office. 
 
Located in China's southeast Jiangxi Province, south of the Yangtze River, Poyang Lake is China's largest freshwater lake.
 
Spanning 2,805 square km, it's also Asia's largest winter destination for migrant birds. 
 
Every year, nearly 200,000 birds flock here from as far away as Siberia.
 
While it's known locally as a paradise for birds...it's a paradise with hidden dangers.
 
Our reporter has been given special access to witness firsthand the efforts of local authorities to protect this habitat.
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) LUO HAO, Ranger, Poyang Lake Natural Reserve
"Look! Their footprints! Bird hunters might have stopped their motorbikes and walked into the deep lake area."
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) LUO HAO, Ranger, Poyang Lake Natural Reserve
"Bird hunters might have entered the deep lake area with nets last night or early this morning. So we have to move forward to find out whether there are bird nets."
 
Included in the 300 species found here are around 95 percent of the world's white cranes, 50 percent of white-naped cranes and 60 percent of its swan geese.
 
Every winter, the lake's total surface reduces by up to 17%, revealing these huge beaches and grasslands.
 
Inspector Luo Hao tells us migratory birds are big business to hunters who sell them to restaurants fetching up to 2000 yuan, almost 330 U.S. dollars for just one crane.
 
Luo is head of his station. Along with his team, he can spend up to 10 hours a day patrolling these grasslands.
 
And it's not long before they're hot on a poacher's trail.
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) LUO HAO, Ranger, Poyang Lake Natural Reserve
"We patrolled here several days ago and found nothing. But this morning we've found many motorbike tracks."
 
It's not just the poachers Luo and his men must battle. They also work in terrain that can prove harsh.  
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) LUO HAO, Ranger, Poyang Lake Natural Reserve
"Our tractor got caught in the mud. We may become trapped in the mud if we move the tractor forward. So we have to stop it here and walk to demolish their nets in the deep area. The tractor has done all it could."
 
Finally Luo finds evidence of poachers operating here. And this is their weapon of choice.
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) LUO HAO, Ranger, Poyang Lake Natural Reserve
We've found nets, almost 20 bird nets. Now we are going to destroy them.
 
Nets can be up to 100 meters long and stand 5 meters high.
 
Strung together, they can run for up to 3 miles, creating an extremely effective trap.
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) LUO HAO, Ranger, Poyang Lake Natural Reserve
"During the day, birds leave their habitat to seek food. And at night they come back. The darkness of night and the transparent material the nets are made of combine to blind the birds. It is too difficult for birds to evade the nets."
 
It took 2 hours for Luo Hao and his team to finish clearing the nets. He tells us these were only just erected, so this time the casualty rate is low.
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) LUO HAO, Ranger, Poyang Lake Natural Reserve
"Today we cut down 40 pieces of net. That is five rows of net and each row consist of eight pieces of net. Not all of the migratory birds have arrived at the lake. We should clear the nets before they get here."
 
Traveling great distances, Luo's is an exhausting job. But he and his team say they're determined to provide a safe habitat for the world's birds this winter.