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Pham Van Cua and his children welcome storks to their hill. — Photo



For more than 30 years, the hill in the mountainous commune of Kien Tho, Ngoc Lac District, central Thanh Hoa Province, has been home to hundreds of white storks.

The owner of the hill is an 81-year-old man from the Mường ethnic minority, who decided not to grow trees for profit, but has left a large piece of land to protect and give storks a home to nest and lay eggs.

The land, covered with various kinds of plants, turns white when storks and birds of different types, from nightingales, humming birds, red whispered bulbuls to pelicans and moorhens, land every afternoon.

Nesting season, from March to May in the lunar calendar, attracts the most storks and other birds to Cua’s land.

“There are three to four nests on every small tree and up to 30 to 40 nests on a big tree,” he said.

To protect storks from being shot by hunters and give them more green space to nest, Cua has grown bamboo and other forest trees.

Bamboo has been erected to make a fence to prevent hunters from entering the storks’ home.

Cua is proud to say his “stork garden” is the only one in the district and it is a lucky present given by God.

As part of his daily routine, Cua visits the hill several times a day to take care of the storks. The first visit is in the morning to check whether there have been any forest fires.

By the end of the day, no matter how cold it is, Cua climbs the hill to check for poachers.

“After the storks go to sleep, I wait until 9-10pm and also go to sleep in a tent by the pond on the hill. During breeding season, I stay until 1am,” he told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.

In his eyes, storks are not only animals but also like grandchildren.

“They make the landscapes more beautiful. They are assets of families, of the whole country,” he said.

Someone offered to pay him VND3 million (US$130) to shoot the birds but he refused. He said just days ago, he and his son-in-law discovered four hunters and summoned them to the commune police.

Luong Viet Long, Cua’s son-in-law, said the work of his father is worth appreciation.

Now when his father is getting old and less active, he follows his father to the hill at night, also because he wants to help his father protect the birds.

Cua has 17 grandchildren. Since they were small, they have followed their grandfather to the hill and played with the storks. The children were taught names of each bird. Each and every one of them are proud that the stork garden is unique in the area and what his grandfather has done helps protect animals and nature. VNS