Forest police rescue injured endangered egret

2021-03-12 China Daily Editor:Mo Hong'e
A Chinese egret roosts at a wetland park in Qingdao, Shandong province, in June. (Photo by Wang Haibin/For China Daily)

A Chinese egret roosts at a wetland park in Qingdao, Shandong province, in June. (Photo by Wang Haibin/For China Daily)

When "Little Fellow" was found on ice, the frail bird was dying."The little bird had injuries to its left wing, and it was on the ground unable to lift its head," said Ma Hongjun, 47, a forest police officer in Jingyuan county, Guyuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region. "After examining the bird, we found that it had not eaten for several days. If we were a little later, it would not have made it."

Jingyuan is located deep in the Liupan Mountains, a major geographical barrier in the country's northwest. In December, three snowstorms in Jingyuan stranded the little bird while it was migrating south for the winter.

Authorities later confirmed that it was a 1-year-old Chinese Egret, an endangered species under national protection. The birds mainly reproduce in Russia and China in spring and summer, and fly south to the Philippines and Singapore in autumn and winter. To protect the bird from starvation, low temperatures and predators, Ma and three colleagues took it under their wings and named it Little Fellow.

After learning that egrets feed on fish and shrimps, they bought three buckets of small fish from the market and took turns to feed the bird. Ma also gave all the fish his son caught during the winter holiday to Little Fellow. "I didn't tell my son, and I plan to buy some from the market before he comes home this summer holiday," he said.

The bird ate three meals a day, and each time Ma fed it, he patted the bird on its neck to show kindness. After more than two months of feeding and as the ice melted, the egret was ready to be released back into the wild last month. Ma and his colleagues released Little Fellow into a local wetland.

"We were worried about him and went to check on Little Fellow every day," Ma said."We fed him little fish and observed how he adapted."

Earlier this month, a sudden burst of sleet sent the temperature plummeting to -7 C. Ma hurried to the wetland but couldn't find the bird anywhere.

However, Little Fellow recently returned to where it was released, along with a black stork."I was surprised to see the black stork, because it is also a national, first-class protected animal in China and as precious as the egret," Ma said.

After living with the police for about two months, the bird has become quite attached to people wearing uniforms. It flies away if an ordinary person is about 20 meters away, but stays when those wearing a police uniform approach."For me, the distance is 5 meters because Little Fellow knows that I will not harm him,"Ma said. "The bird is recovering well, and I think he will find company when other egrets return."

With the environment improving in the Liupan Mountains, many wild animals are thriving.


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