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Land of the rising swan

Updated: Jun 30, 2022 By Cheng Yuezhu in Beijing and Mao Weihua in Urumqi China Daily Print
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Kalajun Grassland [Photo provided to China Daily]

Ma recalls the arduous journey to Bayanbulak a couple of decades ago, when modern means of transport were few and far between. The sleepy town had a handful of nondescript houses and the chances of finding a local on the road, if one needed to ask for directions, would be slim. But, the sight of the majestic birds gliding on water or sunbathing in the green meadows with outstretched wings made it worth all the trouble.

In 1991, Ma and others at the Bayanbulak ecological station, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, sought permission from the National Natural Science Foundation of China for their swan research project. Along with an assistant, the ornithologist went on a two-month raft expedition down the Kaidu River, which courses through the grassland. On the way, they dropped anchor several times and trekked through the reserve to collect field data.

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