A Visit to Shanghai's Dongtan Wetland, the Bird Paradise Applying for UN World Heritage Status – Yicai Global

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(Yicai Global) March 24 — Shanghai’s Dongtan National Natural Reserve on Chongming Island is a key stop on a bird migratory flight path spanning from East Asia to Australia. As the home to a significant number of rare birds, the wetlands are applying for World Heritage status. Yicai Global paid a visit to admire the glory of the bird paradise in spring.
Our reporter visits the reserve outside of the main migrating season, but can still see a wide variety of birds foraging and nesting in the river channels, ponds and reeds around the tidal flats.

“We are now in a transitory period when a large number of overwintering birds have left, and the birds from the southern hemisphere are only starting to arrive,” Feng Xuesong, the reserve’s bird expert, told Yicai Global. “There are still many different kinds of birds here though,” he added.
The 241.55-square meter reserve, situated at the mouth of the Yangtze River, and 10 other bird sanctuaries are applying for inclusion into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s world natural heritage list as the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf of China (Phase II).

“We are lucky today,” Feng suddenly said in hushed tones when walking along the embankment. Looking in the direction that he is pointing his finger, the reporter could see, in the distance, three graceful white-headed cranes calmly looking for food in the mudflats.
As a national first-class protected animal, the white-headed crane is one of the most observed birds in Dongtan. With only about 10,000 such birds in the world, this graceful bird is very rare, and around 1,000 live in China.
“Many people don’t expect to see this ‘bird fairy’ in Shanghai,” Feng said. Dongtan has been home to around 10 percent of China’s white-headed cranes, about 100 birds, for the past 10-plus years.
“The white-headed cranes in Dongtan make up 1 percent of the global total, and there are another 10 other kinds of birds that also each make up over 1 percent of world populations,” Feng said. “This makes Dongtan a key wetland of international importance, as a wetland is deemed to be worthy of protection once the number of birds it gives sanctuary to accounts for 1 percent of the total population,” he said.
“Dongtan’s bird habitats have improved significantly over the past seven to eight years as the ecology repair work continues,” Feng said.
The decade-long Yangtze River fishing ban has had a wonderful effect, Feng said. He believes more policies to further wetland protection will be adopted in the Dongtan reserve.

Over 200,000 birds from 300 species were spotted in the reserve last year, according to a study by the reserve. Seventy-seven species are national first-and second-class protected and 20 are classified as endangered animals.
“The application for world heritage status is an affirmation of our wetland protection work and will allow the ecological value of such a beautiful natural wetland to be recognized by domestic and overseas peers,” he added.
Editors: Tang Shihua, Kim Taylor