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Ma Chaohong: Guardian of Birds on the Yellow River

Viewed 322 times 2017-2-17 09:29 |System category:News| Yellow

A 48-year-old park warden from Mengjin County in central China's Henan Province has dedicated herself to protecting wild birds at a local nature reserve over the past 18 years.

Ma Chaohong is a member of staff at the city's Mengjin Yellow River Wetland Nature Reserve. Through her hard work, the local ecology has experienced many improvements, and is attracting more and more birds to the area.


On a typical cold winter day, Ma watches numerous flocks flying over the river with her binoculars. She wears a windproof jacket and a backpack, a notebook in one hand and a pen in the other.

Among the birds, many come from faraway Siberia and will continue their long migration journey after a short stop at the reserve en route.

10, 20, 143… She quickly jots down the number count, despite her frozen hands.

With a simple glimpse, she can judge the approximate size of each flock – a skill acquired through long-term observation and countless repetition.

In 1999, she quit her job in city and returned to the then newly-established sanctuary, joining her father's rank of bird protection.

In the beginning, they had only bicycles for transport. To patrol the whole of the vast piece of land – which is 59 kilometers long and up to 5 kilometers wide – took more than three days. They had to carry food, eat and sleep along the way.

However, surprises during such journeys often made her forget the hardships and toil.

One day in the winter of 2001, she encountered 40 great bustards, a rare variety of large birds that had not been seen at the reserve for many years.

"At that moment, I was extremely excited, as if I was seeing my own family who had been parted with me for a long time. I felt everything was worthwhile regardless of hardship," she said.

Many people find it difficult to understand Ma's great passion for her feathered companions.

"Observing birds gives me great pleasure. Many of their behaviors are similar to those of human beings," she added.

"Birds are friends of people. By observing birds we are actually paying attention to our own living environment; protecting these small spirits of earth also means protecting our own homeland."


Ma's great love for birds came from her father, a former grassroots official at their county's forestry bureau.

In 1995, during that year's Spring Festival, he saw a group of people poaching and killing birds with self-made tools at the shores of the Yellow River.

Witnessing the brutal scene, he set his mind to protect these wild creatures, leaving his promising job and becoming a warden.

In the first few years, he stopped nearly 100 cases of poaching, defying threats from hunters.

Moreover, he often rode to nearby villages, publicizing related laws and policies.

In late 1997, during the Lunar New Year holiday, Ma returned home, accompanying her father every day to the banks of the Yellow River. Gradually, she felt and understood the elderly man's deep feelings as a naturalist.

In 1999, Ma also became a warden. Over the following over 10 years, they worked enthusiastically regardless of the weather.

The environment of the wetland became better and better, but the health condition of Ma's father went worryingly downhill.

In 2014, due to surgery and several illnesses, the 75-year-old was unable to continue his bird conservation path and retired.

Further Road

Under Ma and her father's efforts over the years, bird hunters are rare nowadays at the reserve.

Local villagers' awareness of protecting birds has also improved. When seeing injured birds, many of them volunteer to lend a hand.

Nevertheless, interference to the habitat caused by human activities still occurs.

"Once, some people from the city held a motor race in the wetlands to get their thrills. It did great damage to the birds' habitat. Such conduct is more difficult to be stopped than hunting," said Ma.

"Humans are the biggest natural enemy of wildlife."

Nowadays, in addition to investigating the varieties and numbers of birds in the reserve, she also focuses on receiving bird lovers from across the country and has founded the Henan Wild Birds Association.

Through regular publicity activities and tours, her conservation team has grown rapidly in number.

"A person's strength is limited. Only when the whole of society raises its protection awareness can the increasingly severe living environment of birds and other wild animals at the wetland truly be changed for the better," she concluded.

Ma Chaohong observes birds through binoculars. [Xinhua]

Ma Chaohong walks on a bridge, carrying a tripod on her shoulder. [Xinhua]

Ma Chaohong works on a laptop. [Xinhua]

Ma Chaohong (R) and her father [Xinhua]


(Source: Xinhua/Translated and edited by Women of China)

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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