Sunday, 20 November 2011

Spoon-billed Sandpipers

It has been an interesting few months for bird conservation. The first ever ex-situ breeding programme for the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus has begun here in the UK.

Dead Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Saemangeum, South Korea (Nial Moores)

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper breeds in the tundra of north-eastern Russia and winters in China and South East Asia. Its population has thought to have decreased by 88% since 2002 equating to a decline by 26% every year. The breeding population has been estimated at 120-200 pairs though this could well be optimistic. The problem is that the Sandpipers are plagued by problems from all areas. Stray dogs are a real threat on their breeding grounds and the loss of habitat and hunting pressure both in their wintering gounds and along stop-off routes through Korea and China.

As a result the first ever captive breeding programme has been set up by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Birds Russia at Silmbridge in the UK. The first 13 birds have been transported to the UK from Moscow Zoo where they have been raised for the past few months. 

These will be the first of several and their descendants will hopefully one day be returned to the wild. Before this can happen though the problems in the wild need to be sorted out.

Just about the cutest baby ever! Elena Lappo


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