The hundreds of taxidermy displays at the Dongting Lake biodiversity gallery in Sanyantang village, Hunan province, give a glimpse into how prosperous and diverse the natural environment of the area around China's second-largest freshwater lake once was.
Behind these specimens is the 73-year-old taxidermist Li Wenjian, a retired doctor of the Yuanjiang epidemic prevention station in Yuanjiang city, Hunan.
Since 1983, Li has stuffed and preserved more than 1,400 animals, insects and plants from the lake's environs in order to enable people to understand the local flora and fauna better.
"Dongting Lake nurtures a bounty of life, and through taxidermy, some deceased and endangered animals have been brought back to 'life'," Li says, adding that he hopes his creations will help raise people's awareness of the needs to protect the biodiversity of what he calls the "mother lake".
In his eyes, these specimens show respect for the life of the creatures and, what's more, they enable people to reflect on the relationship between people and nature.
Due to the intensification of agricultural practices and re-engineering of the waterways since the 1950s, the lake had been reduced to half its size — from about 6,000 square kilometers recorded in 1852 to less than 2,700 sq km in 2003. As one of the wetlands that make up the floodplains of the Yangtze River, Dongting Lake is an important habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife.