• Four years of “Yixin Huatai – One Yangtze River” Conservation Project: Rallying social strengths and exploring diverse models of wetlands conservation

On November 8, The Yangtze River Conservation Forum, an important side event of the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP14), was held in Wuhan. The forum shared iconic cases of Yangtze River conservation, including the protection of the Yangtze River finless porpoise and the ten-year fishing ban in the river, showcased China’s conservation achievements in the three decades since the country joined the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and introduced China’s experiences in wetland and river conservation to the world. The team of Yixin Huatai – One Yangtze River, an environmental protection project (the Project) of Huatai Securities Co., Ltd. (HKG: 6886; the Company), was invited to the forum and demonstrated their efforts in Yangtze River protection with project partners from Fudan University and Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo.

In 2018, Huatai Securities launched the “Yixin Huatai – One Yangtze River” project, and began its strategic cooperation with the government, NGOs and universities to protect the biodiversity of the Yangtze River basin. In 2022, the Company established the Huatai Foundation and initiated the “One Yangtze River” Conservation Fund, aiming to provide more professional and sustainable support for biodiversity protection within the region.

The Yangtze River wetland is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Over the past four years, the Project has covered wetlands in the Yangtze River basin and the estuary of the Yangtze River, carrying out various ecological protection activities including biodiversity surveys, monitoring and patrolling, community co-management, habitat improvement and public education.

Community conservation guards the habitats of the Yangtze River

The source region of the Yangtze River is located in the hinterland of the Tibetan Plateau and is dotted with diverse ecosystems such as forests, alpine rock falls, alpine grasslands and wetlands. Despite its severe climate, the region nurtures abundant and unique species, including the black-necked crane, the only crane in the world that inhabits the plateau.

As an indicator species of highland wetland ecosystems and a flagship species for conservation initiatives, the black-necked crane has attracted great attention. Since 2018, through the support of the Project, the environmental NGO Shan Shui Conservation Center (“Shan Shui”) has offered training and education to over 200 local herdsmen so that they can participate in data monitoring and sample collection for the protection of local species including black-necked cranes. Between 2018 and 2022, a total of 307 black-necked crane surveys were conducted, with 66,627 individuals recorded; the highest number of black-necked cranes observed in a single survey has increased year-on-year to 687, affirming the importance of the Jiatang grassland as a migratory resting place for black-necked cranes as well as a distributing area for their subadults. In 2019, the local government, Shan Shui and Huatai Securities jointly established the community protection area in Chengduojiatang grassland, encouraging local herdsmen to protect the ecological environment of the Yangtze River source region in accordance with the customs and regulations of the community. The community protection area initiative has been an effective step in building a community-oriented wetland protection model.

At present, the community protection area supported by the Project in the Yangtze River source region has reached 4,000 sq km, covering a variety of plateau ecosystems including wetlands. In addition to continuously improving the solutions for ecological protection and balanced community development, the initiative also supports research institutes such as Peking University to carry out research and conduct species monitoring through a monitoring network of more than 400 infrared cameras to gather data related to domestic ecological conditions such as climate change, and the coexistence of snow leopards and leopards. Among them, the breeding site and infant-rearing behavior of desert cats were recorded for the first time in Jiatang grassland, which attracted the attention of many academic and mass media including Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal.

Unite the collective power of citizens to provide rare species a home in the city
Compared with the Yangtze River source region, the middle and lower reaches of the river are densely populated and economically developed, and the intensive human activities overshadow the rare and endangered species that coexist alongside humans in these reaches of the river. In 2019, Huatai Securities cooperated with World Widelife Fund (WWF) and One Planet Foundation (OPF) to launch the “One Yangtze River Wildlife Conservation Microfund” (“the Fund”) species protection project, and a number of conservation organizations and professional teams, including the Wuhan Bird Watching Society (“the Society”), received funding to carry out biodiversity conservation work on the ground in the middle and lower reaches of the river. The Wuhan Bird Watching Society, as one of the funded groups, urged the authorities to include the wintering grounds of black storks in Tianxingzhou, Hongshan District, into the protection scope of important habitats for wild birds, and set up a volunteer service team for bird protection in Tianxingzhou. The Society also aims to assist relevant government departments to eliminate threats and lead the public to participate in the protection of breeding grounds of the Baer’s pochard to help increase the population and the protection of black storks during winter to aid their survival rates.

Similar changes are taking place in Shanghai. Wang Fang, a researcher in the School of Life Sciences at Fudan University, led a team funded by the Fund to study the response of urban animals to human activities and to participate in the protection and management of urban biodiversity in megacities. Within three years, it has attracted more than 200 citizen volunteers to establish a folk raccoon dog survey team, and a Shanghai urban biodiversity database. The number of related science articles has exceeded 30 million, and several papers have been noted and cited by Nature and Science, amongst others.

Cultivating youth power for Yangtze River protection
The Yangtze River finless porpoise is the only remaining freshwater cetacean mammal in the Yangtze River. Due to the impact of human activities such as illegal fishing, increased shipping, disorderly sand mining, poor water quality and noise pollution, its population has dropped from more than 2,700 in the 1990s to about 1,000 today, and the species is now critically endangered.

The “One Yangtze River Wildlife Conservation Microfund” not only offers financial aid, but also provides technical and project planning support. It is hoped that when filling the protection gaps of some threatened species, the Fund can also promote the growth of diverse local protection forces such as scientific research institutions, primary management units, university associations, and local NGOs. With the support of the Fund, the students of the Environmental Protection Association of Jiangsu University of Science and Technology (“the Association”) led 14 high schools from seven provinces to join the Yangtze River Finless Porpoise Science Group, trained more than 500 college student volunteer lecturers, and carried out finless porpoise protection and public education activities nationwide. The Association also developed an online finless porpoise communication mini program, which has exceeded three million visits in the past three years. In April 2022, Zhenjiang Jingkou District Finless Dolphin Protection Association was officially established, and its key members came from Jiangsu University of Science and Technology Environmental Protection Association.

In September this year, Huatai Securities supported the Huatai Foundation and He Yi Institute to launch “Trickle Up – A Yangtze River Student Environmental Protection Activity Funding Program” (“the Program”). The first phase of the Program provides small grants and expert guidance to 25 college student teams, guiding them to carry out environmental protection actions more scientifically and rationally, contributing to the environmental protection industry as well as effectively improving their comprehensive capabilities.

Guiding capital for good and conservation
Under the advocacy of the Project, Huatai Securities launched the “Huatai Yixin Series” pooled asset management plan to provide financing services for green industries and donate a certain percentage of the management fees collected to environmental protection public welfare organizations to support the conservation actions in the “One Yangtze River” project area. In 2021, through cooperation with the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology Conservation (SEE), the pilot project of ecological restoration and sustainable fishery in Jiangsu Binhai Wetland was carried out to provide safer resting places and wintering sites for migrating birds.

The Project takes ESG (environmental, social and governance) as a link, actively promotes dialogue and cooperation between protection organizations and the capital market, and guides capital for good. In December 2020, Huatai Securities joined hands with the China Environmental Protection Foundation, Shan Shui and other institutions to hold the “One Yangtze River” Sustainable Development Forum to discuss the relationship between ESG investment and ecological protection. Representatives from the Shanghai Stock Exchange, MSCI, the asset management industry and listed companies, together with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peking University, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and other institutions, promote the in-depth link between ESG rating, investment and biodiversity conservation, and help capital to be good. In September 2021, the Project was selected as the “Global Special Recommendation Case” of the NGO Forum at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15).

From the source of the Yangtze River, through its middle and lower reaches to the mouth of the river, the “One Yangtze River” project will continue to promote the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature and drive more conservation efforts like a constant trickle of water into this mighty river.