Covering an area of 1,900 square kilometers, the East Dongting Lake National Reserve is an important winter habitat for waterfowls.
Zhang Hong, deputy director of the reserve, says that a larger number of birds are expected to arrive here this winter than in previous years.
"A few years ago, there were about 100-thousand to 120-thousand birds inhabiting Dongting Lake for the winter. Based on our observation and estimates, I believe there can be over 170-thousand migratory birds arriving here this winter season."
According to Zhang, the increase of migratory birds in the reserve is not only in their numbers, but also in the number of species.
He says this suggests an environmental improvement of the reserve, as birds naturally choose the most suitable environment for themselves.
"In 2002, there were only around 200 types of birds in the East Dongting Lake National Reserve. When we published the Bird Communiqué on April 1, 2017, the number was 345. While by early December 2017, the number reached 348."
In order to encourage the public to participate in the protection of Dongting Lake's environment, the local government has organized bird-watching festivals and competitions every two years.
Some local residents have also brought injured birds to the reserve for rescue, once they find them.
Zhang Hong adds that there is still a lot of work China needs to do to protect the birds, as well as the ecological environment of wetlands, especially in terms of legislation and scientific research.
"Firstly, we need to speed up legislation on the protection of wetlands and natural reserves. Secondly, the long-term management mechanism needs to be sound. Thirdly, we also need to further scientific research in this area. With joint efforts, I believe our ecological environment will continue to improve."
As one of the largest impounded lakes of the Yangtze River, Dongting Lake has a strong flood storage capacity.
It has protected central China from flood disasters many times in history.
The local government started to strengthen the management of the lake in 2006.
Statistics show the local police have uncovered 31 cases related to illegal bird hunting and 16 people have received criminal punishment in the past five years.
28 hunting guns have been confiscated, and more than 1,000 pieces of netting used in bird hunting have been found and removed from the Dongting Lake area.
China published a national plan for the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt in September 2016 to boost concerted development in riverside regions and provide new growth drivers for the country's economy.
Environmental protection and restoration were listed as paramount tasks in the plan.
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