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What we do
Image: RSPB - John O'Sullivan
The available data suggest that the spoon-billed sandpiper population is undergoing a rapid decline and, if current trends continue, the species could be extinct within a decade.
The key problem relates to low juvenile survival. Spoon-billed sandpipers breed in Arctic Russia and migrate down the East Asian coast before wintering in countries such as Myanmar and Bangladesh. Here they are susceptible to trapping by local people, primarily for food. The juveniles are particularly at risk as they don't return to the breeding grounds until their second year.
The rapid development of coastal habitats along the East Asian-Australasian flyway could also be playing a role in the decline due to the loss of important stop-over sites that migrating birds require for feeding and roosting. This habitat loss is likely to be detrimental to a whole suite of migratory wading birds that use this flyway.
Our overarching goal is to prevent the spoon-billed sandpiper from becoming globally extinct. The key objectives for this work need to tackle the problems across the complete annual cycle of the spoon-billed sandpiper.
The population at Slimbridge now consists of 26 birds. Thirteen of these birds are thought to be male, nine are thought to be female and four are of unknown sex – which means that we may well be able to hit our original target of establishing 10 breeding pairs. Changes in plumage and behavior show that the birds are progressing towards sexual maturity, and we are confident that they will start to breed soon.
Results from work on the wintering grounds are very encouraging, with as many as 80–90 per cent of hunters in the Bay of Martaban, Myanmar (the single most important wintering site) and all hunters in Bangladesh signing agreements to stop hunting and surrendering their trapping equipment.
Initial head-starting work has been successful. Nine chicks were successfully raised and released in 2012, and 16 were raised and released in 2013. All of these birds migrated as normal, and two have been seen in south Asia – one in the Inner Gulf of Thailand and one on the south China coast.
A strong partnership of organisations and individuals from all over the globe is focusing on conservation efforts for this charismatic species.
Rob SheldonHead of International Species Recovery TeamE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We need to raise £140,000 urgently to help fund this important work. You can do your bit to save spoon-billed sandpipers by making a donation.