Improved wildlife numbers disrupt farming
Days before feeding fish fry in the paddy fields, rice farmer Lei Binghua installed a loudspeaker in his farm in Southeast China's Fujian province.
With the sounds of wolf howls and dog barks blaring, the loudspeaker is part of Lei's arsenal to fight egrets.
"Egrets are protected animals. You can't shoot them. You just try to scare them away," said Lei, who has yet to come up with a better solution.
This is the second year that Lei has tried to farm fish in the rice paddies of Jianyang district in Nanping city.
In a video clip recorded last April, Lei was seen yelling at a flock of egrets in the fields. Though the flock was startled by the shouts and flew away, it only flew to another rice plot nearby.
"There are hundreds of them. Just can't get rid of them," Lei said, describing the battle against the birds as "annoyingly amusing".
The carp fingerlings that Lei has in the rice fields are what make the egrets linger. Last spring, he put nearly 10,000 baby fish in the fields, but only a small number made it to harvest season after months of looting by hungry egrets. The total catch was just over 100 kilograms.
However, the egrets were the least of his worries years ago. Rice prices slumped from 3.1 to 2.4 yuan (46-36 cents) per kg, cutting Lei's annual income by almost 300,000 yuan.
"No longer can we make profits simply by increasing output given the sharp price decrease," said Lei, who runs a rice farm of more than 66.7 hectares. "I have to think outside the box."