KUNMING, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Hou Tiguo has a very special talent, he can tell what kind of birds are around simply by their chirps. His skills do not stop there, as he has honed his "bird guide" abilities from working in a nature reserve in southwest China's Yunnan Province for more than 30 years.
"It's not difficult to tell whether they are in a good mood or a bad mood," the 52-year-old man said.
Hou lives in Baihualing Village of Baoshan City, which is located in the Gaoligong Mountain National Nature Reserve, a paradise of wild birds.
More than 520 bird species, or nearly a third of the country's total, have been recorded in the village, making it a top bird-watching destination.
However, the story was much different in the past. Poverty-stricken villagers deep in the mountains had to hunt wild birds to stave off hunger.
In December 1995, initiated by the nature reserve, the village established an association for biodiversity conservation. Local village officials, villagers, teachers, students and forest rangers became members of the association and started to protect the wild animals and ecosystem.
With the help of the local government, villagers were encouraged to make use of wild bird resources to develop the local economy.
Since an increasing number of birdwatchers and shutterbugs have been attracted to the bird-watching destination in recent years, more villagers have engaged in work to accommodate bird-loving tourists.
Apart from working as a bird-watching guide, Hou also runs a homestay. In Baihualing Village, there are more than 60 "bird guides" like Hou, and many villagers who left to find work in cities have returned to jump on the bird-watching bandwagon.
The booming bird-watching industry in Baihualing not only helps villagers shake off poverty but also strengthens the awareness of environmental protection.
To promote the development of bird-watching tourism and gain more fame, Baoshan City has also held international bird-watching festivals and photography competitions.
The success of Baihualing Village has now spread to other places across Yunnan. Since realizing the small birds are cash cows, villagers have given up hunting birds and now conduct regular patrols in the forest, stopping bird-hunting and deforestation instead.
In Sanhe Village, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, many "bird hunters" have transformed into bird protectors and shaken off poverty.
"Although local tourism was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, I still earned 7,000 yuan (about 1,088 U.S. dollars) via bird-watching," said Li Zhonghua, a villager of Sanhe, adding he takes his three-year-old son to feed birds every day and teaches him to love and protect birds.
"Visitors also bought many local specialty products after viewing wild birds, which brought me much more income than I expected," said Yuan Kaiyou, a villager in Sanhe.