IFAW investigation concludes that pollution is destroying China's world famous Swan Lake

Friday, 28 January, 2005
Rongcheng, China
Earlier this year, 13 swans suddenly died, within a month of each other, at Swan Lake in Rongcheng. Roncheng, on the east coast China in Shangdong province, is home to more than 2,000 whooper swans, the largest habitat in Asia and one of the four largest in the world. The rate of death at Swan Lake was three times as high as in previous years. In response, IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare www.ifaw.org.cn) immediately used 10,000 RMB to launch an investigation into the deaths and to provide urgently needed medical support and food for the vulnerable animals.
IFAW’s investigation concluded that Swan Lake is polluted and needs better management to protect animals and their habitats.

Dr. Quanhui Sun, an ornithologist with IFAW, conducted independent anatomy analysis of the dead birds and concluded: “ The dead specimens were all young and strong but died of sudden diseases. It is very possible that inadequate food and a polluted environment – particularly the infected fresh water source – weakened the birds and caused these deaths.”

IFAW found that three out of four fresh water canals at Swan Lake are polluted by sewers or salted by a backflow sea-water. The salt water comes from seafood farming pools, which are spread along the bank of the lake.

“ The seafood farming activities and real estate projects are conducted right in the middle of the protected zone, which jeopardizes the living condition of the swans and many other animals protected by national law,” said Dr. Sun.

According to local forestry bureau’s documentation, the Swan Lake area was approved as a development zone prior to its establishment as a provincial nature reserve. Hence, there are still active projects within the core of the reserve. In 1999, a 60-million Yuan RMB silt-cleaning project left two large pieces of wetlands covered by dried and leaked silt for three years. The destruction of the 100-acre area, formerly a living and feeding ground for many animals, forced the swans to search for new sources of food and hard-to-find fresh water.

Food shortages also forced the whooper swans into direct contact with humans, posing both an animal welfare and a human health danger.

Dr. Sun said: “ We were appalled when we saw trashes dumped directly into the lake, including batteries, pesticides bottles and other things. The garbage is killing the swans and their food supply.”

Dr. Zhang Li, IFAW China Country Director said: “ Rongcheng’s Swan Lake is one of the biggest habitats for whooper swans in the world and a pride of China. We urge that relevant authorities take immediate action to stop the human damage to the habitat, restore the destructed areas and preserve the nature beauty of Swan Lake for both the 2008 Olympic Games and for people all across China.”

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