Authors: Zhang Tianqing, Jiang Zhong Yu, Yang Biyu | Reprinted with permission from Jiangxi Daily
“Found it! Found it! After 219 days, it is still alive, No. S26!” After seeing the photo of “Love”, Wang Zhiru, Director of Jiangxi Academy of Forestry, finally felt a load lifted from his mind.
No. S26 is a wild Siberian Crane, a national first-class protected animal named Love.
As Jiangxi province’s first wildlife of such importance to be rescued in cooperation with another province, Love’s unknown whereabouts for 219 days affected thousands of people’s feelings, including Liu Qi, Secretary of Jiangxi Provincial Party Committee.
So what magic power does this lovely Siberian Crane have that draws so much attention?
Saving the lost Siberian Crane
On April 24, 2018, Li Zengming and his family went to visit relatives in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. When passing Uncle Li Mingquan’s reservoir, they found a bird struggling in the water.
Worried about its safety, Li turned the car around and drove to the shore. Then he picked up a branch, took off his clothes and went into the water to save it without hesitation.
When he approached the bird, he found it was a Siberian Crane, a rare animal he once saw a photo of on a bulletin board.
“I saw the Siberian Crane with dull, glassy eyes and a weak body. It was probably injured. If I left it alone, it would be in danger.” Li said.
After more than half an hour’s endeavor, Li finally took the Siberian Crane back to shore.
Then a man riding a motorcycle passed by and saw the Siberian Crane.
“Are you selling it?” He asked.
“Sell? Definitely not!” He shook his head at the man.
Then he called experienced Uncle Li Mingquan and explained the situation.
“Rush to me immediately and I’ll send it to the police station right away.” Uncle Li said.
When seeing the weak wild crane brought by Uncle Li, Jiang Qingchun, Deputy Director of Five-Star Police Station, High-tech Branch, put down his work and checked it carefully.
“At the end of April, migratory birds usually return to the north. It’s abnormal for a Siberian Crane to still live nearby. Probably because of poor physical condition, it was left behind.” Jiang said.
Then he contacted Wang Zhiru, Director of the Wildlife Rescue and Breeding Center of Jiangxi Academy of Forestry, for help. Wang suggested sending the bird to the center for treatment immediately.
Two hours later, the Siberian Crane was sent to the rehabilitation center and was checked by Wang and his colleagues.
They found that this Siberian Crane was a sub-adult no more than two years old. The bird was without obvious trauma. The reason for being left behind might be malnutrition and exhaustion.
After five days’ treatment, the Siberian Crane recovered and ate actively, with its weight rising from 3.75kg to 4kg.
During the rehab period, many enthusiasts named the Siberian Crane. A citizen named it Love, because it got love from many kind-hearted people in Jiangxi, hoping Love will come back to Jiangxi next year.
Trans-provincial field release
In order to avoid losing Love’s wildness due to long-term captivity, it was necessary to find the location of the northward migrating cranes as soon as possible and release it into the wild immediately.
But Siberian Cranes were all returning toward Siberia at that time. Where should Love be released?
The Jiangxi Wildlife Conservation Administration found the location of the northward migrating cranes, the Momoge National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province. There were more than 1,000 Siberian Cranes. The flock was estimated to move northward at around May 10.
Only six days were left.
Only by flight can Love arrive at the location and catch up with the group.
On May 4, Jiangxi issued an official letter to Jilin Province for getting release permission.
On May 6, a specially designed wooden box was sent to the rescue center. During this period, Wang installed a satellite tracker attached to Love. No matter where the Siberian Crane flies, its location information can be transmitted to the monitor of the ambulance center in real time.
On May 7, Love boarded a flight to Changchun via a special channel deliberately made by the airport.
On May 8, Love was returned to the crane group in Momoge National Nature Reserve with the help of Jiangxi and Jilin province.
Before release, Love got a colorful band, No. S26.
Wang recalled that when Love was released, it stood still even though it was driven off by the work staff. After a rather long time, Love walked toward the crane flock step by step without spreading its wings to fly.
No more information about Love was received after May 28.
After 20 days’ release, Love was lost!
The International Crane Foundation and China Crane Conservation Committee published information on finding Love and mobilized the wildlife protection agencies in 15 provinces where Siberian Cranes have been sighted in past years to pay close attention. Jiangxi Wildlife Conservation Administration contacted the workers who released Love many times.
Time flew. Winter was coming. There were more migratory birds in Shandong Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve.
On Dec. 22, 2018, Huang Gaochao, Honorary Chairman of the Photographers Association of Dongying City, Shandong Province, went to the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve of Shandong Province to photograph wintering migratory birds and unexpectedly found two Siberian Cranes.
He was so excited that he pressed the shutter on his camera and caught the scene of the two birds chasing each other and playing happily. He discovered that one of the cranes had a ring, No. S26, on its right foot but did not know its name and where it came from.
Huang sent the pictures of S26 to a Wechat Group. Then friends forwarded the photos to Dongying Bird Appreciation Wechat Group. By accident, Shan Kai, Senior Engineer of Bird and Wetland Conservation of the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve Administration, found and forwarded the photos to the Wechat Group China Crane Joint Protection Family.
He also asked Liu Guanhua, a group member from Jiangxi Province, “Is this the Siberian Crane you are looking for?”
Liu Guanhua, a Deputy Director of the Poyang Lake National Nature Reserve Administration in Jiangxi Province, took a close look and immediately sent the photos to Wang for confirmation.
Wang was shocked.
The Siberian Crane with the colorful ring No. S26 was Love!
So far, the story of the Siberian Crane Love has once again rapidly attracted the public’s attention.
About Love’s later legendary experience, the original rescuer Li Zengming knows nothing.