Distant mountains, green trees, and paddy fields. The crested ibis hovers in the sky with a long beak, a Phoenix crown, a red head, and white feather. Walking in the countryside of Yangxian County in Shaanxi Province, you'll see such a scene from time to time.
In 1978, Liu Yinzeng, an ornithologist at the Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, was ordered to look for the engangered creature. He traveled more than 50,000 kilometers in three years and finally found the world's only 7 wild crested ibises in Yangxian County in May 1981.
And a project for saving the crested ibis started.
Strong protection efforts in the past decades helped to boost its population. Now, there are more than 5,000 crested ibises worldwide. Instead of dying out, they fly far to the Qinling Mountains, to China and beyond.
寻鹮记/Looking for the created ibis
Yang County is grateful to Liu Yinzeng, the old man who found the crested ibis, and awarded him the title of "Honorary Citizen". His WeChat nickname is "An Old Ibis Man".
Liu Yinzeng said that the habitat of the crested ibis is very special. At least three conditions must be met: tall and dense trees; paddy fields, rivers and lakes; a quiet place near people's residents.
In the 21 century, the crested ibis saw a sharp population decline worldwide due to human activities such as urbanization and pollution.
There has been no news of the bird since 1964 when China captured a crested ibis in Gansu. This rare bird was once thought to be extinct in China.
Is there crested ibis in China? Liu Yinzeng started off to find the answer.
In May 1981, Liu Yinzeng came to Yangxian for the third time and played a slide show of the crested ibis while villagers were watching a movie. One day, after the film was shown in the county cinema, the villager He Choudan said that he had seen this kind of bird and local people called the bird "red crane".
Finally, crested ibis was found on the 15 tall and lush trees next to a farmhouse on the hillside.
"There are a pair of adult crested ibis in the tree and another 3 chicks in the nest waiting to be fed." Liu Yinzeng held his breath at the telescope, for fear of disturbing them.
“Crested Ibis, Crested Ibis. I traveled all over China and three years of hard work were not in vain. I found you finally!"