Friday, 21 October 2011

The future of Spoon-billed Sandpiper - a thought and rant.

Having just read another 2 articles about the Spoon-billed Sandpiper project, one on the Internet and the other in the RSPB mag, i really feel that it's time everybody wakes up and realises that the species is beyond help in it's present range.

Habitat destruction and the rising human population which then results in many people having to catch birds and animals to sell or eat just to survive in E and SE Asia is NEVER going to change regardless of what conservation bodies believe or do. I have spent some time in China,Vietnam and Thailand and even with the greatest of optimism it is blindingly obvious what the future holds for much of the wildlife in these areas.

The most recent article says that potentially a third of the Spooners world population has recently been found stopping off on an estuary in China and that the area is currently under threat from development. Well there's a big surprise. I think the end aim of the project is to one day supplement the wild population with captive bred birds, once the sandpipers decline has been thwarted. I'm afraid that if this is to be achieved then the whole human population from North Korea south to Sri Lanka will have to be exterminated. Not ethically correct in this day and age, if your going to do it by the book that is.

The only possible solution i see is to try and relocate them further west, say in NW Russia and maybe even Scandinavia. We still have sufficient estuaries and wetlands on this side of the world for them to use for refuelling and wintering alongside Dunlins, Curlew Sands, Little Stints etc. Using captive bred birds would also allow for mistakes to be made and possibly rectified. It all sounds fairly straightforward but it's plain to see from the ongoing discussions over whether Wild Boar and Beaver should be in Britain that some conservation bodies just don't have the bollock's nowadays to attempt something groundbreaking. The other thing i guess you have to consider is whether you could justify what it would all cost.

We have almost certainly lost Slender-billed Curlew to extinction and having seen what was probably the last genuine one in Morocco in winter94/95? (the Northumberland bird was just a Curlew) i think you could justify it. It would feel wrong to lose a bird that i have personally seen and spent time studying. Attempting to relocate S-b Sands might not work but i don't see any other alternatives other than visiting a zoo to see them in the future.

 The problems facing Spooners will i guess eventually affect other waders such as Great Knots and Red-necked Stints and even if hunting was watered down i don't see the destruction of the Asian coastline ever going away. All cheery stuff.