First hand-reared spoon-billed sandpiper returns home to breed26/06/2014 08:44:06
An extensive hand-rearing programme, aimed at saving the highly endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, is celebrating the news that for the first time one has returned to its Russian ancestral grounds to breed, two years after she was released.
This is a major milestone for the programme, which is a collaboration between WWT, Birds Russia, Moscow Zoo and the RSPB working with colleagues from the BTO, BirdLife International, ArcCona and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.
It aims to give the chicks a head start to ensure they survive their crucial first days of life, and stabilise the species’ population, which is estimated at 100 breeding pairs in the wild.
The team carefully removed eggs from breeding grounds on the tundra of the Chukotka region in eastern Russia to be monitored, hatched and nourished in the nearby village of Meinypil’gyno before being released.
Rearing and releasing birds on the breeding grounds increases the number of young birds in the wild in autumn by about 25 per cent.
But this is only the start as, once released, the birds embark on a 5,000 miles migration to South Asia, facing exhaustion, starvation, illegal hunting and getting caught in fishing nets in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Pavel Tomkovich of Birds Russia said: “Two years ago I attached a tiny plastic leg flag to this bird, so that we’d recognise it if it was ever seen again.
"The odds were severely stacked against that happening, but amazingly she was spotted, first by birdwatchers in Taiwan in April and now we see her here at her birthplace ready to have young of her own.”
Norbert Schäffer, the RSPB’s head of international species recovery, said: “It’s great to see parts of the plan to protect this precious species coming together, but it’s a long road and there is still a lot more to do in terms of tackling the problems on the flyway.
"This is a huge international effort involving many different partners and with everyone doing their bit.”