live in a village near one of China's most important wetland nature reserves,
at Yancheng on the east coast. It is a big reserve covering nearly 600 kilometres
of mud flats along the shore. About 3 million birds from 200 species visit
it every winter.
It was here that I became a wetland ambassador for WWF, sleeping in a tent on the beach and learning about the beauty of the wetlands and how to save them.
The Yancheng National Nature Reserve is famous for its red-crowned cranes. Its centre is very natural and wild. But a million people live round the edges of the wetland. There are rice fields and fish and shrimp ponds. Maybe because of this, the cranes are disappearing.
I study environmental engineering at university. And it was there, two years ago, that I heard WWF wanted to appoint some student ambassadors to study and help protect wetlands. I decided to apply to study the Yancheng Reserve.
I formed a team by putting up posters and asking my friends. One week later, we had eight people and we presented our proposal just one day before the deadline!
We were selected.
The job was hard. After training, we spent a lot of time living at the wetland, surveying the wildlife. At night, we froze in our tents. But the worst time was the evening, when we were bitten by thousands of mosquitoes. I had lumps all over my legs!
One day, we had the biggest snows there for 13 years. Our team all caught cold, and one member later developed a lung disease. We were all very sorry for him. But he said: 'It's nothing because I am serving nature.'
We went to the reserve for two years. In the second year, we gave environmental lessons to a nearby school. One student answered all our questions. Later, he said he had met our team the previous summer and remembered what we had said. That made me very happy.
I had thought that we could save the wetland just by telling people the problems. But I soon realized that it was more complicated. The people needed the wetland to live. Our studies found that a serious problem for the cranes was local people destroying the vegetation. They did this by digging up the mud to collect clamworms, which they sell.
But we hope that our studies will help the managers of the reserve, as well as local people, to understand better how the wetland works and how to protect it.
The work taught me many things. I learned about
wetlands, of course, and how to be a nature lover. But I also learned
Our Planet 1996 Water Issue Our Planet 1998 Freshwater Issue
AAAS: Freshwater AAAS: Freshwater wetlands AAAS Mangroves and Estuaries
World Wildlife Fund Yancheng Nature Reserve PDF Version