Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve, Zhaotong

Why is Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve So Special?

Dashanbao is one of the most popular destination for Yunnan Birding Tours. Covering a total area of 19,200 hectares, the Reserve is a plateau marshland. There are more than 1,300 black-necked cranes wintering in Dashanbao Reserve which has become the largest winter habitat of black-necked cranes and is regarded as one of the “Hometowns of Black-necked Cranes in China”. The reserve  has been designated as a Ramsar site since 2004. 

Where is Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve – Location

Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve is situated in Dashanbao Township in Zhaoyang District of Zhaotong Municipality, geographical east longitude 103 ° 14 ’55” ~ 103 ° 23′ 49″, north latitude 27 ° 18 ’38” ~ 27 ° 29 ’15”.

History and Culture

A “first class protected species,” black-necked cranes winter in the Wulianfeng Mountain area of Zhaotong Prefecture from early November to early April, residing in high elevation wetlands, including swamps, marshy pastures, reservoirs and pools, at altitudes ranging from 2,200 to 3,300 meters. A synchronized headcount at several localities in January 1998 found 1,332 birds. But a repeat count two years later tallied only 808 birds.

In order to try to help protect this endangered species, Zhaotong Prefecture established the Dashanbao Black-Necked Crane Nature Reserve in 1990, covering all 192 square kilometers of Dashanbao Township. 

In 1990, Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve was approved by the people’s government of Zhaotong city. 

In 1994, it was approved by the people’s government of Yunnan province to be upgraded to a provincial nature reserve.

In 2003, it was approved to be a national nature reserve by the state council .

In 2005, Dabanbao wetland in Yunnan was listed as an international important wetland.

Natural Resources

Animals: The most valuable protected animal in Dashanbao Nature Reserve is black-necked crane. According to official statistics, its number has increased to approximately 1130 from 300 in 1990; other birds include: erne, gray crane, goshawk, glede, sparrow-hawk, common buzzard, white-tailed willet and Asian barred owlet etc. There are 68 species of animals, among which there are 10 species of mammals, 52 species of birds, 5 species of fish; 3 species of reptile; 3 species of amphibia. The black-necked crane is the main protected object. 

Plants: There are 56 families of vascular plants, falling into 131 genera and 181 species, including ferns of 9 families, 10 genera, and 11 species; spermatophyte of 47 families, 121 genera and 170 species. Simultaneously animals protected inside include 10 orders, 28 families and 68 species.

Values of Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve

The black-necked crane is a first-level protected animal in China. It mainly breeds on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and overwinters on the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau. It is the only crane among the world’s 15 species of cranes that breeds and overwinters on the plateau. According to the simultaneous survey of black-necked cranes conducted by the forestry department of Yunnan province and the international crane foundation (ICF) in 2002, 930 black-necked cranes stayed over winter in the protection area of Dashanbao in 2002, and the survey data of the same survey time in 2003 was 1,043. Dashanbao has become the protection area with the largest distribution of black-necked cranes per unit area in China.Due to its fixed migration route every year, Dashanbao is also responsible for protecting the specific environment to the survival of the black-necked crane of subalpine meadow and marsh meadow.

Current Situation

Since the time when Dashanbao Nature Reserve was established, sub-alpine wetland and wet grassland, which are the major habitat of the black-cranes to spend winter in Yunnan, have been conserved effectively. It is of great significance for conservation of the bio-diversity. Now, Dashanbao has been listed in international important wet lands and China’s national-level natural reserves. 

Today there are more than 1,300 black-necked cranes wintering in Dashanbao Reserve which has become the largest winter habitat of black-necked cranes and is regarded as one of the “Hometowns of Black-necked Cranes in China”. The birds have gradually attracted researchers, photographers and tourists. To avoid disturbance, a tunnel was built in the Reserve. It is covered by grass and there is a row of window on the upper part of tunnel. Anyone who wants to watch and take photos of black-necked cranes shall stay in the tunnel.

How to Get there

Trains, buses and planes are optional ways from Kunming to Zhaotong. There are several trains from Kunming to Zhaotong. At least, the train journey is about 9 hours. Via expressway, Zhaotong City is about 350 km away from Kunming. The flight time is about 1 hour. Dashanbao is about 80 km away from the seat of Zhaotong. There are regular buses. Howerver, self-driving is more convenient.

The best way for tourists to get to Dashanbao is car-rental. Many of the attractions in the scenic spot are 2- 5 kilometers away from where you are staying.

Best Time to Go

The best traveling time is autumn and winter. From the beginning of August to the beginning of October, the flowers, oat and grass on the mountain are all in pieces, stacked on top of each other, with various colors. In the winter, large numbers of black-necked cranes migrate to Dahaizi Wetland from Tibet Plateau in the end of October, and leave in April the next year when the black-necked cranes “dance” on the wetland, leaving deep impressions on tourists’ minds.

Accommodate at Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve

If you want to see the sea of clouds and sunrise, it is recommended to stay at Dashanbao Town while if you just want to watch the sunset, stay at the Zhaotong city where the accommodation condition is better. 

Attractions Nearby

Huanglianhe Scenic Area:
Located in Daguan County, it has a grand waterfall group hidden in the depths of the mountain valleys. Water curtains, caves and many other spectacles make this scenic area an attractive spot in Zhaotong.

Islamic Style Park: 
It is only 5 kilometers away from Ludian county seat. It is a national tourist attraction integrating the ethnic culture, wedding culture, food culture, clothing culture of Hui ethnic people and the most distinctive ethnic tourism in southwest China.

Wanghailou Tower: 
Wanghai Tower is located in the southern suburbs of Zhaotong city at the foot of Fenghuangshan mountain, built in the Qing dynasty(Qianlong 25 years). It was designated as a city-level cultural relic protection unit in 1983.

Useful Travel Tips

► If you want to see the black-necked crane, it is better to come from the end of September to the end of January.

There are strong ultraviolet rays at Alpine meadow, so protect yourself from the sun.

Tours including Dashanbao Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve

6 Days Northeast Yunnan Winter Birding Tour to Dianchi Lake, Nianhu Lake and Dashanbao

8 Days Yunnan Winter Birding Tour to Dongchuan Red Land, Nianhu Lake and Dashanbao Nature Reserve

9 Days Yunnan-Guizhou Winter Birding Tour with Dianchi Lake, Caohai Lake, Nianhu Lake and Dashanbao Nature Reserve