Pan Shiyi, chairman of SOHO China, said his company would be committed to piloting the retrofitting of specially designed "swift boxes" on two SOHO buildings in Beijing. Handout.

Property developer SOHO China, together with environmental NGOs, launched a swift protection project Thursday in Beijing, which will make new buildings more bird-friendly by including nesting places in the design, Xinhua reported.

The Beijing Swift is an iconic bird synonymous with the capital city since ancient times. Scientists believed the bird’s population is falling due to the loss of nest sites caused by the replacement of traditional style buildings with new buildings that lack the holes for them to breed, the report said.

At the launch, four Beijing high school students shared their observations and efforts they have made on bird protection. To provide homes for the swifts, some of them have initiated plans to make and erect swift nest boxes on their campus.

Pan Shiyi, chairman of SOHO China, received a request from students to help the birds, saying that his company in the next few months would be committed to piloting the retrofitting of specially designed “swift boxes” on two SOHO buildings in Beijing. He will also promote biodiversity criteria in China’s building sector.

Henry Paulson, chairman of the Paulson Institute and former U.S. treasury secretary, said in a video message delivered to the launch that the project would influence not only the building sector in China and overseas but also act as an example to other sectors to show that consideration of biodiversity was possible at low cost and with considerable benefits in terms of biodiversity, company reputation and value.

Pan gave each student a wooden swift nest, which he made himself of waste wood collected at SOHO’s construction sites. In response, students presented Pan an honorary certificate as “Beijing Swift Ambassador.”

“Though it is called the Beijing Swift, it flies all over the world. Public welfare and environment protection are not limited by countries, distance and wealth. Every one of us can participate,” the real estate tycoon said.

Terry Townshend is the main initiator of the project. He is a British environmentalist who has watched birds in Beijing for eight years and founded the Birding Beijing group for fellow enthusiasts, the report said.

He said in the context of global mass wildlife loss the initiative was groundbreaking, showing that all sectors of society, including communities, NGOs and business could work together to make a positive contribution to biodiversity.

“It sends a strong signal to the business community in China and overseas that supporting biodiversity can be done without harming profit,” Townshend said.

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