Zhang Shengyuan, once a bird poacher, now a bird nanny

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A small boat is sailing across Honghu Lake, the song Honghu Lake, the Waves Crashing could be heard from not too far away, familiar tunes find their ways into your eardrums, that’s a local villager Zhang Shengyuan humming the song.

Zhang Shengyuan grew up fishing by the lake. At that time, the lake seemed to be stretching all the way to the horizon, waters were clear, birds were singing, and you could smell the flowers.

At the beginning of the 1990s, seine fish farming was emerging. Honghu Lake, which got its name from water, had more than 10 million bamboo poles stuck into the lake itself, and dense nets wrapped around the poles, looking like a maze and a Great Wall on water. Massive fishing resulted in reduced water flow, declining water quality and drastically dropped output of fish. Some fishermen began to hunt birds for a living, Zhang Shengyuan was among one of them. On a day in 2003, Zhang came to the waters as usual, in his own words, he said, “[I] took out the gun and was about to shoot a bird, then I got busted by the rangers.”

The rangers stopped him and educated him. He learned that protecting the environment equals protecting his source of income. They also found that Zhang Shengyuan knew a lot about the birds and the waters, so they took him in as a ranger and equipped him with boat, bird detection devices and communication devices.

Zhang had changed from then on and put down the shotgun. With a paddle and a boat, he patrolled day and night to drive away the illegal hunters regardless of winds and rains.

HSBC helped World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to partner with Honghu Lake Reserve Administration Bureau. A preservation and restoration demonstration zone had been established in Yangchai Lake Area of Honghu Lake to remove fishing nets and poles on a large scale. During the restoration process, HSBC employees often came to Honghu Lake as volunteers to help with the ecological restoration. The volunteers saw Zhang Shengyuan all the time, who was rowing his boat in different areas of the lake.

Just like that, with a pen, a notebook and a pair of binoculars, Zhang Shengyuan has been spending more than ten years on the waters, living with the birds, observing and documenting the living condition of the water birds in detail. He would check if there were any bird eggs slipping out of the bird nest, and keep counting the number of endangered water bird species that had returned to the lake.

Later he was named “bird nanny”. There was a time when Zhang almost lost his own life in order to save a white stork who had been injured in the lake. But he said, “I want to protect birds and guard this wetland with my life.”

From a bird poacher to a bird nanny, from plunder to protection, it is a moving story, which demonstrates the results of translating the awareness to preserve wetlands into improved capability to get it done. This is a tiny part about HSBC’s Living Yangtze Programme.

HSBC has donated more than RMB200 million over the past 20 years, dedicated to the general preservation of the Yangtze River basin and the major wetlands in China. It has protected rivers of 2,432 km, wetland areas of 767,620 hectares, while the green development fuelled by this programme benefited 83,914 people. In the future, HSBC will continue to focus on all matters related to water resources and environmental education to jointly build a beautiful China.

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