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Zhalong National Nature Reserve

Geographic Location

The site is located between 46° 52’ and 47° 32’ N, and 123° 47’ and 124° 37’ E, at 140-146 m above sea level, in Heilongjiang Province, 26 km east of Qiqihar City. It lies in the western part of the Songnen Plain and marshes and lakes downstream of the Wuyuer River.

Human population within the site amounts to 60,507 people.


The Zhalong NNR is composed of permanent and seasonal freshwater marshes with numerous shallow lakes and ponds and extensive reed beds made of Phragmites spp. in the lower drainage basin of the Wuyuer River. Grassland, reed thickets, farmland, and fish farms surround the site. Due to the combined effects of low rainfall, high evaporation rate and poor drainage, all lowland areas have become heavily charged with salt, which in some places prevents vegetation from growing. Total site area is ~210,000 ha. Summer is the most humid season, with the average rainfall of ~67% of the total annual precipitation. The site receives most rainfall in July, which is also the warmest month in the year.

The watershed of the reserve is composed by Wuyuer River, Shuangyang River, Xinnenjiang Canal, and Bayi Xinfu Canal. Of these, the Wuyuer River is the most important for maintaining the entire wetland ecosystem and meeting the human population water needs in the district.

Breeding species include Red-crowned Crane, White-naped Crane, Great Bustard and Oriental White Stork. An aerial survey in May of 1996 produced a record number of 346 Red-crowned Cranes at Zhalong. Breeding population of the White-naped Crane at the site is between 30-50 individuals. Migratory species found in the Reserve include the Siberian Crane, Hooded Crane and a number of waterbirds.

Conservation Status

Zhalong was established as a National Nature Reserve, the highest designation for a protected area in China. However, some serious threats to the reserve remain. The single most important issue is the supply of water to the wetlands, which was reduced in recent years due to diversion for other human needs. However, emergency measures have provided an interim solution to this problem. The fragmentation of the wetland habitats by canals, roads and other structures is also a significant issue. Poaching of breeding and roosting birds and collection of their eggs has largely been brought under control. Excessive fishing has caused a decline in the size of the individual fish and in the overall harvest sizes. Clearing of reeds by fire is thought to have an adverse effect on wildlife, and when coupled with low water levels, can lead to large fires, such as the huge fire in 2000 – 2001 which destroyed over 13,000 ha of reedbeds. Over-grazing, wetland reclamation and reed collection can also lead to habitat deterioration and degradation. Human disturbance keeps the wildlife populations below the area’s maximum carrying capacity.

SCWP Objectives

The project’s main priority is to secure the water supply to the wetlands, through a water management plan and monitoring programme. The reserve’s medium and long term management plan will be updated and improved, including greater stakeholder participation. The project will also implement a Wetland Restoration Programme for over 1,300 ha within the reserve. It will establish improved infrastructure for eco-tourism, and develop a new/revised eco-tourism plan. The existing public education and information center will be improved with interpretative displays and associated activities. The project is aiming for an increase of 24% in area under protection for Zhalong NNR.


Zhalong NNR establishes cooperation and exchange with CIDA.  More...



Sunset at Zhalong
White Naped Crane in Zhalong
White-naped crane at Zhalong
Dongshen Resevoir water gates

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Last update: August 17, 2005.

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