The latest addition to the staff at Mai Po Nature Reserve Centre spends her days eating and swimming, and is assisting in an ecological experiment that could change the way the wetlands are managed. The as-yet unnamed four-year-old water buffalo was introduced to the reserve as part of an 18-month study during which researchers from WWF Hong Kong, which operates the wetlands, will study changes in the ecosystem in the animal's fenced-off area. Reserve workers have been using machinery to cut back reeds and grasses, but research has shown the movement of water buffalo can create a better environment for birds. If the experiment proves successful, it will also be regarded as cost-effective as the buffalo's plot will cost little to run and staff can concentrate on other areas of the marsh. Since her arrival, seven cattle egrets have been spotted in the area, the first time the species has been seen there. The female buffalo's veterinary treatment is being covered by the Kadoorie Farm and the farm's Alex Grioni comes once a month to check on her. Three ponds will be studied: one untended, one managed as before and one grazed by the water buffalo. As the largest resident in her new 1.4 hectare home, it is hoped the buffalo's presence will help diversify the marshland, attracting birds such as cattle egrets, grey-headed lapwings and greater-painted snipe. It's also hoped that there will be an improvement in dragonfly numbers. If the project is successful, the buffalo will stay, and the staff will consider bringing in more. This particular female was chosen for her gentle and easy nature around people and was given to Mai Po by the Sheung Shui Animal Care Centre. Bena Smith, the WWF Reserve Officer who designed the project, said the water buffalo had frequent interaction with people to keep her tame. 'She is taken for an hour-long walk every day,' she said. 'If she was wild she'd be able to break down the protective fence.' The team at Mai Po is taking suggestions for naming the water buffalo until the end of the month. E-mails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org .