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Saving China's endangered duck with funny hair

By LIU MINGTAI, ZHANG YU and RANDY WRIGHT |  China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-21 10:28

Chinese mergansers rest by a river in the Changbaishan National Natural Reserve. [Photo by Zhao Wenbin/For China Daily]

Being a celebrity can inflate any duck's ego, and we try not to let it go to our heads. Not so sure about those giant pandas. Let's just say we're just happy to get a share of the limelight when opportunity knocks.

Zhuo Yongsheng, 47, has spent 12 years visually documenting Chinese mergansers in Changbaishan National Nature Reserve. He gets special access, the result of his personal friendship with Piao and 20 years as a photographer at Changbaishan Broadcast and Television. He has taken countless pictures and shot hundreds of hours of video of the quirky ducks.

For him, it's both a professional and personal mission. He is fascinated by their beauty and unique behavior and sensitive to their needs.

One of Zhuo's most memorable videos shows a merganser mother trying to lead her chicks onto a 1-meter-high dam.

The mother jumps up first. The babies try to follow but fail repeatedly.

"I couldn't bear to see them going through all that hardship," Zhuo said. "So I helped by putting a big stone under the dam so they could step on it."

He admitted the babies probably would have figured it out without his help.

One thing they cannot do, however, is document themselves. That's human territory.

"Before me, no one had created a detailed pictorial record," said Zhuo, who spends seven to 10 days each month at the reserve.

Bemused, he added: "The ducks are like movie stars playing different roles. Great patience is required. Before a scene plays out, I must wait and wait and wait."

He counts himself lucky to have been asked by Piao to record all that he can.

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