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Garden promotes passion for nature

Pub Date:2024-04-03 09:34 Source:China Daily

Over the past eight years, Li Rongfu has received over 13,000 visitors at his botanical garden in Jiaohe city, Jilin province, which also serves as a base for ecological and moral education and social activities for children.

Li, a 60-year-old biology teacher at the Tianbei Township Nine-Year School in Jiaohe, spent his life savings of 800,000 yuan ($110,648) to build the 260-hectare botanical garden in 2016 and to conduct daily maintenance in the ensuing years.

In fact, as early as 2003, he began contributing to China's ecological protection efforts. Since then, he has received several honors, including the National Outstanding Contribution Award for Ecological and Moral Education for Minors, and the Ministry of Education's Advanced Individual Award for Caring for Nature and Bird Protection. He was also named one of the country's "Most Beautiful Ecological and Environmental Volunteers".

In the winter of 2003, Li's son rescued a "big" injured bird in the wild. Some people expressed an interest in buying it when they heard about its size, but Li refused to sell.

"At first, I didn't know what species the bird was, but I knew it was a wild animal, and no matter how much money was being offered, it couldn't be sold," he said.

After consulting with experts from the Jilin Wildlife Protection Association, Li learned that the bird was an Oriental white stork, an endangered species under national first-class protection.

The association offered Li a 500 yuan reward, but he refused the money and instead accepted two books on wildlife protection.

From then on, he noticed his students' enthusiasm for protecting the ecology and nature began to grow. This led him to establish a team at his school focused on protecting birds. Participating students carry out wildlife protection and promotion activities such as cleaning birds traps in the mountains and helping the animals survive the cold winters.

Over the past 20 years, the students have taken part in wildlife protection activities in 23 villages and 148 communities in Tianbei.

At the same time, in cooperation with the local forestry department, they have vigorously cracked down on illegal activities, rescuing over 200 species of wildlife, such as the Oriental white stork, golden eagle, egret, swan, wild goose and roe deer.

As a biology teacher, Li believes that lessons cannot be confined to the classroom.

"There are over 180 plant species in our town, but the students rarely recognize the features and the benefits of different plants," he said. "I hope they can get close to nature, understand flora and fauna, and thus protect them."

In 2010, Li built a garden behind the school's office building, covering an area of over 300 square meters.

He planted various plants and noted their names and beneficial qualities, but due to a school expansion project, the garden had to be dismantled.

To create a field base for ecological conservation education, Li decided to build the botanical garden with his own savings.

"At first, I spent 600,000 yuan building the garden, which was originally intended to be used to buy a new apartment for my son," he said. "I received my wife's and son's support because they knew my favorite thing is to watch wild birds being released into the sky and returning to nature."

With an area of 260 hectares, the garden contains over 1,000 species of wild plants, nearly 600 varieties of Chinese medicinal herbs, over 70 species of wild birds and various terrestrial wildlife. It was open in April 2016 to the public for free.

Li has also continued to invest in road construction, housing and maintaining infrastructure at the garden. He has secured books on ecology worth 60,000 yuan through the China Wildlife Protection Association, and has built a reading room to accommodate them.

"Now the students can study and practice what they learn simultaneously in the garden," he said. "As a biology teacher and a national natural experience training instructor, I will always continue to teach about nature and cultivate a new force for the construction of an ecological civilization."

Editor:Zheng Chen

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