Massive hunt for potentially extinct Slender-billed curlew launched17/12/2009 17:08:40 Wise men scour the Middle East and Mediterranean in the hope of finding ‘lost' bird
December 2009. The largest ever attempt to rediscover a possibly extinct species will be mounted this winter with teams of skilled volunteer observers scouring more than 35 countries around the Mediterranean, Middle East and the Indian subcontinent in the hope of confirming the continued existence of the slender-billed curlew.
Common 150 years ago
Slender-billed Curlew Working Group
No verified record since 2001
Only 1 nest site ever discovered - Siberia
In the event of a slender-billed curlew being located, a rapid-reaction team will be deployed to catch the bird and fit it with a satellite tag in the hope that it can be tracked back to its breeding grounds next spring.
The African- Eurasian Waterbird Agreement is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) backed international treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds across Africa and Eurasia. Thanks to the AEWA treaty four satellite tags are ready for use. The slender-billed curlew is one of the four most threatened (Critically Endangered) species listed under AEWA and has the smallest population estimate amongst them with no confirmed records since 2001.
Nicola Crockford added: "Although, there haven't been any confirmed sightings in the last eight years, there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic, especially because the bird can be difficult to identify and tends to occur in areas away from principal wetland birdwatching sites. Additionally, the bird may occur in countries, such as Iraq, posing access problems for birdwatchers.
"The ultimate Christmas present for everyone involved with this mysterious bird will be to find one that we can track back to the breeding grounds, where more may exist and from where we can start a species recovery programme. If our dreams come true, then we may be able to save this bird, and prevent the first extinction of a European bird since the disappearance of the Canary Islands oystercatcher, three decades ago."
The British Birdwatching Fair, through BirdLife International's Preventing Extinction Programme, has donated £10,000 to cover travel expenses for more than ten search teams including, one international expedition to Morocco, one to Tunisia, four to Egypt, one to Syria and four national search teams in Algeria. In addition, the Swedish BirdLife Partner, SOF, is funding an international search team to Sudan. The RSPB/Birdfair Small Research Grants Programme is also helping fund the searches in Egypt and Iran. However, many of the searches are self-funded.
Any potential record of slender-billed curlew has to be approved by an international verification panel set up by the Slender-billed Curlew working group and co-ordinated by the newly appointed Ken Shaw, formerly of the RSPB.
Birdwatchers are urged to keep an eye out for the bird in suitable habitats within the potential range and to report any possible sightings, including historical ones. To assist the search, an identification leaflet has been produced in twelve languages.
Only 1 recording ever made
Further information is available from www.slenderbilledcurlew.net. The Slender-billed Curlew Working Group is established in the framework of an intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding for the Slender-billed Curlew under the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species.