A Chinese tourist at one of eastern China's most revered beauty spots has come under fire for harming two protected mandarin ducklings, which are now feared to have died.
The tourist ignored repeated warnings from volunteers at West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on Saturday afternoon and grabbed one of the ducklings, while frightening another.
According to the local Qianjiang Evening News, the man finally returned the young duck to the water, but only after sustained criticism from both the volunteers and his fellow tourists.
There was no sign of either duckling the next day and researcher Cheng Guolong, from the Hangzhou Bird and Ecology Research Association, does not believe they survived the encounter.
"Almost for sure, the two mandarin ducks are dead," Cheng said. "People want to grab them because they are cute, but this can hurt them very easily and cause their deaths eventually."
Cheng also warned tourists not to feed the mandarin ducks, as it would make them less afraid of humans and they would lose their natural vigilance.
"We hope the government can put up some signs to warn people not to hurt the mandarin ducks. This might be more effective," Cheng said.
The mandarin duck is under second-class protection according to China's wildlife laws, and the West Lake mandarin duck protection team has been operating since 2016. During the breeding season " every May and June " volunteers head to West Lake to protect the latest hatchlings.
Da Lu, one of the volunteers, said there were now seven nests and 39 mandarin ducks at the lake, which has been an inspiration to poets and artists for more than a thousand years. In honour of the beauty spot's literary importance, the volunteers have named the seven duck families after a famous Chinese couplet which can be seen on Gushan, an island in the lake.
Family Mingming had 10 members, Da Lu said. Sadly, because of the bad behaviour of one visitor, there are now only eight.
But the tourist's actions are not unusual. Da Lu, who is nearly 60 years old and spends each day from 6am to 7pm protecting the ducks, said he had seen similar behaviour around 10 times in just the past three days.
"Mandarin ducks are so beautiful, why hurt them?" he repeatedly asked in an interview with local media.
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