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A Slice of Nature Brought Back to Life-Dongtan Wetland Park

updated: 2010-04-26

For a break from the bustle of downtown, the Dongtan Wetland Park offers a unique escape. Open to the public on April 28, the Dongtan Wetland Park is a 24-kilometer swath of reclaimed wetlands adjacent to the Dongtan Bird Reserve on Chong-ming Island, just a one-hour drive from People's Square.

A plethora of wildlife, such as white storks, Yangtze alligators and other vigorously protected animals thrive inside the park, accounting for 70 percent of all wildlife in Shanghai. But this didn't happen overnight. The reeds and rivers that now comprise this natural gem are the result of an ongoing project that began in September 2003.

Just nine years ago, the land that the Dongtan Wetland Park now occupies was an environmentally damaged patchwork of farms, ditches filled with waste and a large polluted pond. If environmental destruction had proceeded unchecked, Shanghai Dongtan International Wetland Co., Ltd predicts that this ruin would have spread to the neighboring Dongtan Bird Reserve as well.

Righting environmental wrongs

Thankfully, things took a turn for the better when a group of forward-thinking officials from the Shanghai Dongtan International Wetland Co., Ltd drew up a reclamation plan. Starting in September 2003, the first order of business was to clean up the mess. As such, the once polluted pond was converted into a swamp crisscrossed by a system of rivers.

The rivers were stocked with aquatic plants that purified the water and were made home to organisms that make good prey for birds. Alongside revitalizing the water running through the wetlands, park officials completed other facilities, such as a jetty, a bird watching sanctuary and an earthquake and weather observatory.

Giving wildlife a home

After laying the groundwork, park planners jumped into the second phase of the master plan. In this phase, the animals in the park were given a proper home. Towards this end, an 80-hectare natural habitat for wading birds and a 20-hectare Yangtze alligator research center were created. And the results are tangible.

In 2008, a female Yangtze alligator named Minnie from the US gave birth to fifteen babies in the park after mating with a Yangtze alligator named Da Bing from Zhejiang Province. A sea resort, rest areas and a large bicycle parking lot were also created during this phase. Finishing touches

Building on the substantial progress made in the first two phases, the Dongtan Wetland Park is now in its third and final phase, which is aimed for completion in April 2012. Key elements of this phase will be wrapped up in time for the park's April 28 opening. The visitor's center, which runs largely on solar power, will open its doors on the first day, while the world wetland zone will be partially opened.

Covering a total of 100 hectares, the world wetland zone houses three pavilions that give a run-down on the plants, animals and birds found in wetland environments. These pavilions also serve to raise environmental awareness and even model the combined surroundings of the Amazon and Niles rivers.

The combined effect gives a strong sense for the diversity found across the wetland regions of the world. Classrooms, a theater and other learning facilities, inject a strong educational component into the park.

As a tribute to this massive conservation effort, the Dongtan Wetland Park was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance on February 2, 2002. Navigating the waters

Part of the fun with going to the Dongtan Wetland Park is getting around it. For this, the choices are many. Electric automobiles from the US make it possible to tour the park without breaking a sweat, while boats give the option to see the park from the water. Bicycles are also available. But simply walking provides the most intimate view of life in the wetlands.

Whether by boat, car, bike or on foot, the park is using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to keep tabs on the flow of visitors. Every visitor wears a watch-like gadget that serves as an entry ticket, a tracking device, a self-paced tour guide complete with different languages and even a cash card for visitors who want to dine in the park.

A note to visitors: according to Qiu Zhonghong, managing director of Shanghai Dongtan International Wetland Co., Ltd, the park will limit the number of daily visitors to 2,000. And for the period when migrant birds flock to the park (November to March), daily visitors will be capped at 1,000.

 

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