The spoon-billed sandpiper is facing imminent extinction
The operation to save it is underway
The spoon-billed sandpiper is hurtling towards extinction. Fewer than 100 pairs remain in the wild, together weighing less than a single mute swan. Without urgent action, it could be lost forever.
In a bold step, we have made two expeditions to Far East Russia to start a conservation breeding programme for the spoon-billed sandpiper.
Now, a small flock is under specialist care in a purpose-built aviary at WWT’s headquarters in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. This flock is a precious insurance policy – a last resort in case the species becomes extinct in the wild – and has bought time to tackle the multitude of threats facing the spoon-billed sandpiper.
Chief among them are illegal hunting, which is killing the young birds before they are old enough to breed, and the reclamation of coastal mudflats, which they depend on to rest and refuel on their long migration.
Conservationists working with villagers in Myanmar and Bangladesh have already started to ease the pressure of hunting. At an international level, pressure is mounting to protect the remaining coastal wetlands on which the spoon-billed sandpiper rests and eats during its 8,000km migration.
The hope is that the problems that the spoon-billed sandpiper faces can be solved. Then the conservation breeding programme will be producing eggs that can be hatched and released back into an environment that is far safer for this unique and charismatic bird.