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Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 15:34

Long-absent, gulls return to Sanya

By Liu Xiaoli in Haikou
Long-absent, gulls return to Sanya
Terns are adapting to their new home in Sanya, Hainan province, after a 3,300-kilometer journey from Qingdao, Shandong province. (Wu Wei / For China Daily)

About 44 juvenile terns, all artificially incubated, arrived recently in their new home in Sanya, the tropical resort city of Hainan province, after a four-day journey from Qingdao, Shandong province.

The move was part of a project to revive the bird species' habitat. The terns will be domesticated before being released to the sky. Artificial propagation of the birds will also be carried out.

Sanya and nearby waters were once home to a large population of gull species, including seagulls and terns.

The project was initiated by the Blue Ribbon Ocean Conservation Society in March. It's a nonprofit group, established in Sanya in 2007, that focuses on protection of the ocean environment.

"We have been to Zhejiang and Yunnan provinces, as well as other places that were known as ideal habitats for seagulls and terns in China to investigate, and we talked with local experts about the birds for several months. Finally we decided to introduce birds from Qingdao," said Bian Yuqin, a society staff worker.

"All of the juvenile terns were incubated from eggs rescued by the Qingdao Wildlife Rescue Association from abandoned nests or eggs that were on their way to dining tables," Bian said.

Zhang Shiping, the head of the association, who has been studying wild birds for more than 15 years, said the seagull is a kind of migratory bird, so it would be possible for them to live in Sanya. Terns, also a gull species, were chosen because young wild seagulls cannot be domesticated, he said.

"I was worried a lot that the birds would not survive the long journey to the new environment, but it seems that they took it very well and adapted to their new home quickly. I am relieved now: All of them are finding food in the feed trough we prepared," Bian said.

The 44 terns, with the help of bird experts, will be taught to recognize different whistles and respond to commands - for example, being told to go back to the cage.

Luo Jiuru, an 81-year-old expert on marine environments, who has called for bringing seagulls back to Sanya for decades, was excited to see terns in Sanya again. She witnessed seagulls in the skies in the 1970s.

"Sanya is now undertaking an ecology recovery project. Rivers are cleaner, more trees and grasses are being planted and the seagulls are being seen in Sanya again," Luo told Hainan Daily.

"Sanya has a better environment now, and this makes the project much easier," she said.

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