Near a rehabilitation shed at Cangzhou Wildlife Rescue Center, a swan paces around leisurely after eating a bowl of fish.
It was difficult to imagine such a scenario just a month ago when the elegant creature was too weak to stand on its own after being found struggling in the wild outside Hejian, a county-level city in Cangzhou in north China's Hebei Province.
Countless migratory birds are making their way south, but some are not able to reach their winter destinations due to sickness, injury or poaching.
On Thursday, three people were detained for poaching migratory birds in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and more than 30,000 birds were rescued, according to the public security bureaus of Guilin City and Pingle County.
During the National Day holiday from October 1 to 7, about 3,000 living birds were rescued and 5,000 dead birds found due to the joint efforts of local officials and volunteers. Clap nets stretching over 10,000 meters in the coastal areas of Tianjin Municipality and Tangshan City, Hebei Province were also retrieved.
Experts say that rising demand in Chinese urban markets has caused an increase in migratory bird poaching. The birds are usually sold locally or in other Chinese cities, including in the southern province of Guangdong, where restaurant diners pay generously for meat considered a delicacy.
Cangzhou stands along one of China's three bird flyways. The wetland-rich coastal city is a vital stopover site for birds as they refuel before reaching their wintering grounds in the warmer south.
In Cangzhou, a volunteer bird rescue team led by 52-year-old Meng Derong has been saving wounded birds. Additionally, staff at the Cangzhou Wildlife Rescue Center have rescued 20-plus birds from protected species so far this year.
Since 2001, Meng, a biology professor at Cangzhou Normal University, has taken his students and bird protection volunteers to conduct studies in Cangzhou's wetlands and offer assistance to sick or wounded birds while keeping an eye out for poachers.
There are two factors that put the life of migratory birds at risk, Meng said. "One is bird disease and attacks by their natural enemies," he said. "The other is poaching."
Meng is called the "Bird Doctor" by locals due to his dedication to studying and protecting migratory birds. The rescue center was founded by him with the help of the local forestry authorities in 2003.
Since its establishment, the facility has managed to save more than 1,100 birds from over 50 nationally protected species, about 760 of which have fully recovered and returned to the wild.
Meng has also opened an exhibition room with information about birds and held campaigns to promote bird protection.
"It is not going to happen with just one man's efforts to protect birds," Meng explained.
Lu Jun, director of the Bird Banding Center of China, called for related departments to work together.
"The government should promote bird protection so that the public will stay away from any activities that threaten wild birds," he added.
Fortunately, public awareness of bird protection has gradually increased in recent years, Meng said, adding that he sees hope in the fight to save migratory birds.
"Now when sick or wounded birds are found, people call us for help," Meng Derong said. "I am delighted more and more people have joined the battle."