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Garden promotes passion for nature

Teacher works to instill need for ecological protection in students

By Liu Mingtai in Changchun and Zhou Huiying | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-03 09:10

Li Rongfu (right) guide children and their parents during an ecological education tour in Jiaohe, Jilin province. CHINA DAILY

Over the past eight years, Li Rongfu has received over 13,000 visitors at his botanical garden in Jiaohe city, Jilin province, which also serves as a base for ecological and moral education and social activities for children.

Li, a 60-year-old biology teacher at the Tianbei Township Nine-Year School in Jiaohe, spent his life savings of 800,000 yuan ($110,648) to build the 260-hectare botanical garden in 2016 and to conduct daily maintenance in the ensuing years.

In fact, as early as 2003, he began contributing to China's ecological protection efforts. Since then, he has received several honors, including the National Outstanding Contribution Award for Ecological and Moral Education for Minors, and the Ministry of Education's Advanced Individual Award for Caring for Nature and Bird Protection. He was also named one of the country's "Most Beautiful Ecological and Environmental Volunteers".

In the winter of 2003, Li's son rescued a "big" injured bird in the wild. Some people expressed an interest in buying it when they heard about its size, but Li refused to sell.

"At first, I didn't know what species the bird was, but I knew it was a wild animal, and no matter how much money was being offered, it couldn't be sold," he said.

After consulting with experts from the Jilin Wildlife Protection Association, Li learned that the bird was an Oriental white stork, an endangered species under national first-class protection.

The association offered Li a 500 yuan reward, but he refused the money and instead accepted two books on wildlife protection.

From then on, he noticed his students' enthusiasm for protecting the ecology and nature began to grow. This led him to establish a team at his school focused on protecting birds. Participating students carry out wildlife protection and promotion activities such as cleaning birds traps in the mountains and helping the animals survive the cold winters.

Over the past 20 years, the students have taken part in wildlife protection activities in 23 villages and 148 communities in Tianbei.

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