Fourteen Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers were hatched in captivity last week after precious eggs were rushed thousands of miles from Arctic Russia to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Slimbridge Wetland Centre in the UK. This operation is part of an SOS - Save Our Species supported project implemented by IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) member, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).
These chicks, only the second flock ever to be born in captivity, are part of an urgent conservation breeding project supported by SOS and other conservation organisations across the world to save the species from global extinction. In the coming days the newly born flock is expected to reach 30 individuals.
“The level of support for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper has been phenomenal,” said Dr Debbie Pain, Director of Conservation, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. “It is only thanks to donations from thousands of individuals plus a major grant from SOS - Save Our Species, that we are able to put this emergency plan into action.”
It is estimated that there are fewer than 100 pairs of breeding individuals. A dramatic decline in the number of Spoon-billed Sandpipers was first observed in 2000 and Russian and international field workers travel each year to Chukotka in Russia to monitor numbers at the species’ breeding ground.
The long-term decline of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is thought to have been caused by the loss of inter-tidal habitat in which these birds feed during their 8,000km migration between Russia and South and Southeast Asia. The current crisis facing the Spoon-billed Sandpiper is suspected to be a result of local people trapping birds in coastal Myanmar and Bangladesh, where the birds spend most of the year outside of the breeding season.
Once these threats have been tackled further by local and international conservationists, including helping villagers find and fund alternative livelihoods, the birds from the conservation breeding programme will be returned to the wild.
To find out more read the WWT full press release.