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Birdman of Dongtan
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Meanwhile, ordinary families in Shanghai can visit the wetland, watch the banding and even assume the responsibility for the care of some banded shorebirds, under a program launched by the reserve last year.

"For 100 yuan ($14) per person and 200 yuan for a banded bird, a Shanghai family can enter the reserve's core area, learn about our banding operation and get a certificate for their help," the director says. "We offer the program only at the weekends during the banding seasons. We provide guides, transportation within the reserve, fishing suits and binoculars to visitors. The project is not aimed at earning money but at environmental education."

Last year, more than 30 families earned the certificate by joining the program.

The banding operations and the program are just part of Song and his colleagues' efforts to develop the reserve into one of the country's best-preserved nature reserves. "Working at one of the most important wetlands in East Asia and Shanghai's largest wildlife's sanctuary, our major work is to better protect the wetland and the wildlife relying on it," Song says.

Covering an area of more than 240 sqm, the Dongtan wetland, like Chongming Island, is formed by the mud and sand silt carried by the Yangtze River as it drains into the East China Sea. The extensive fresh and salt water marshes, tidal creeks, and inter-tidal mudflats at the eastern end of Chongming Island support large numbers of birds and a rich variety of fish, crustacea, mud-dwelling invertebrates, water plants and even tiny plankton. So far, a total of 290 species of birds have been observed at the Dongtan wetland, 20 of which are endangered species, as per the China Species Red List. In 2002, the Dongtan wetland joined the Convention on Wetland of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat - short for the Ramsar Convention - and was designated world Ramar Site 1144.

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