This aerial photo taken on Dec. 16, 2022 shows a group of grey cranes resting on the frozen surface of Hengshui Lake in Hengshui, north China's Hebei Province. (Photo by Li Ming/Xinhua)
SHIJIAZHUANG, July 11 (Xinhua) -- On a summer day, a group of students accompanied John Howes, a bird expert from Britain, on an enchanting educational expedition to an islet of Hengshui Lake in north China's Hebei Province.
At the islet, Howes captivated his audience with simple yet compelling storytelling techniques. He delved into topics, such as wetlands, their significance, and the intricate web of life that sustains them.
The participants in the study tour were mainly students from Zhizhen Middle School in Hengshui City, Hebei. Through interactive discussions and role-playing activities, students were able to grasp the importance of ecological diversity and the interconnectedness of all living beings.
"This biology class has provided us with a wealth of ecological knowledge, and more importantly, helped us develop an ecological mindset to care for nature, starting from ourselves," said Mou Zhijie, a student who was part of the group.
The lake has become an important ecological research and learning base for environmental agencies, schools, and various organizations throughout the country. It is recognized not only for its educational value but also as a sanctuary for a wide variety of bird species.
Hengshui Lake is a national nature reserve that boasts a complete wetland ecosystem. It is home to 333 bird species, including 21 ones under China's top protection.
Howes has been a frequenter of the lake. The ornithologist's rendezvous with the lake can be traced back to 2015 when the rare Baer's Pochard was discovered, marking the beginning of a journey of collaboration and conservation.
"The ecology of Hengshui Lake is unique and holds great research value. I love this place," Howes said.
Hengshui Lake has become the most important known breeding location for Baer's Pochard, a type of diving duck listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In 2017, 308 pochard ducks were recorded in the lake.
According to Howes, he sees better changes every time he comes to Hengshui Lake.
To improve the ecological environment of the entire Hengshui Lake wetland, the municipal government has taken measures such as sealing off sewage outlets into the lake, demolishing illegal constructions along the lake, relocating surrounding villages and main roads, said Liu Zhenjie, deputy director of the administration committee of Lakeside New Area.
The new area, which administers Hengshui Lake, has also restored 350 hectares of waterfowl habitats on the north of the lake, designated seasonal core areas to reduce human interference, and planted crops such as wheat and corn to provide abundant food for birds, according to Zhang Yuguang, an official with the Hengshui Lake national nature reserve.
"I also hope that more people can come to Hengshui Lake and appreciate its ecological beauty," Howes said. ■