Most people reading this will be aware of the dire situation with regard to the enigmatic shorebird, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The population has declined from 2,000+ breeding pairs in the 1970s to fewer than 250 pairs in 2014. If the current rate of decline continues, the species will be extinct within the next few years.
There is a particularly high mortality rate of young birds, seemingly because of habitat loss on its migration route, especially in the Yellow Sea area, and because of trapping on the non-breeding grounds, namely in Myanmar.
A number of conservation groups are working together to try and save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Initiatives consist of:
(i) encouraging the cessation of trapping on the non-breeding grounds, notably in the Bay of Martaban, Myanmar
(ii) establishing a captive breeding programme at Slimbridge in the UK
(iii) establishing a headstarting programme where eggs are collected from incubating birds on the breeding grounds and the hatchlings are hand-raised in captivity to fledging age before they are released back into the wild.
(iv) working with Chinese conservationists and other Chinese officials to establish protected reserves on the mudflats on the Jiangsu coast, a crucial area for migrant Spoon-billed Sandpipers (and other waders) on the their way to and from their breeding grounds
(v) satellite tracking of tagged birds to increase knowledge of the movements of Spoon-billed Sandpipers (currently, scientists do not know where 75% of spoon-billed sandpipers breed and where around 25% winter)
Further details of these initiatives, along with latest updates of the 2017 headstarting programme, can be found at http://www.saving-spoon-billed-sandpiper.com .
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