Devotion to ducks earns man a protector's badge

By Chen Meiling in Beijing and Liu Kun in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-24 07:22
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Zhu Xiangneng, a crayfish pond owner in Wuhan, Hubei province, goes on patrol to protect Baer's pochards. YAN JUN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Crayfish farmer in Wuhan takes action after finding critically endangered species, Baer's pochards, nesting in his pond

Holding a green bamboo pole, Zhu Xiangneng carefully punted a tiny skiff across a pond filled with lush water plants, like in a scene from a martial arts film.

Much like characters in films who discover a secret martial arts manual and then become superheroes — a common trope — the 39-year-old discovered by chance that Baer's pochards, a critically endangered species of diving ducks, were living in his crayfish pond, turning him into a hero dedicated to their protection.

In 2010, Zhu rented a 13.3-hectare pond near Baoxie Lake in his hometown of Wuhan, Hubei province, after quitting his job elsewhere. He raised fish until a flood destroyed his business, and then decided to start raising crayfish instead in 2016, as they were in demand on the local market.

Over time, he started noticing ducks hanging around the pond that he'd never seen before. One day, he struck up a conversation with members of the Wuhan Bird Watching Association, who happened to be observing birds in the area, and asked them what species the ducks were.

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