Birds Korea Press Release: October 11, 2007
1) Birds Korea Press Release: October 11, 2007
The Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Saemangeum
The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a small and very
highly specialised shorebird, breeding in North-east Siberia and
spending the winter in Bangladesh and South Asia. It needs very
food-rich tidal-flats and open estuaries,and as a result almost the
whole world population migrates through the Yellow Sea on migration
in both spring (April-May) and autumn (July-October).
South Korea is now recognised as the most
important country in the world for this species on migration. The
largest flocks recorded on migration anywhere have been at the
Nakdong Estuary (in the 1970s) and Saemangeum (in the 1990s).
In recent decades, this charismatic and now
highly endangered species has declined very rapidly, from possibly
tens of thousands remaining in the 1970s, to only 3000 or soby the
year 2000. Based on research on the Russian breeding grounds and on
coordinated surveys in wintering areas, the total population was
estimated at only 350 pairs in 2005. Following further research in
2006 and 2007, the total population has now been estimated at a
maximum 200 and 300 pairs, and a minimum only
100 pairs remaining worldwide.
The main reason for the decline of the
Spoon-billed Sandpiper is the reclamation of tidal-flats (through
projects such as the Saemangeum reclamation), and the degradation of
estuaries (e.g. through the construction of estuary barrages).
Approximately 180 Spoon-billed Sandpiper were
counted in autumn at Saemangeum by government researchers in the
late 1990s. Following completion of the seawall in April 2006, only
four were seen at Saemangeum in autumn 2006 (on September 8th), and
only one in Saemangeum in autumn 2007 (on October 5th). Numbers
recorded in spring are declining too.
Birds Korea knows of only 20 Spoon-billed
Sandpiper in total recorded in Korea in autumn 2007 - with 14 at the
Geum Estuary, 1 at Saemangeum and5 at the Nakdong Estuary. On
present knowledge, only one other site in the world has supported
more than one Spoon-billed Sandpiper in autumn 2007: Hakata Bay in
Japan, with 4.
Saemangeum is being reclaimed; the Geum Estuary
is still threatened with reclamation and the Nakdong Estuary is now
apparently threatened with a proposed 'floating airport' plan.
Hakata Bay too is suffering the effects of a large-scale reclamation
Birds Korea is the Korean representative
organisation in the global Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery team, and
has conducted extensive research at key sites for the species in
Korea, including leading the international Saemangeum Shorebird
Birds Korea Director Nial Moores states:
" Research by Birds Korea and other
organisations is showing clearly how the Saemangeum reclamation is
causing huge impacts on migratory shorebirds like the Spoon-billed
Sandpiper. South Korea isnow preparing to host the next 'wise Use of
Wetlands' Ramsar Convention conference, in October 2008.This Ramsar
Convention obligates contracting governments to maintain populations
of migratory waterbirds. The Saemangeum reclamation and projects
like the proposed floating airport in the Nakdong estuary,
however,clearly threaten the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other
tidal-flat species with imminent extinction."
On October 11th, the global conservation
organisation Birdlife International (http://www.birdlife.org/)
will release a global press statement on the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
Birds Korea are the Korean contact point for this press release.
On October 13th, Dr. Christoph Zockler (the
coordinator of the international Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery
Team) and Dr. Mike Crosby (Research and Data Manager, Birdlife
International) will meet at Saemangeum and the Geum with Birds Korea
Director, Mr. Nial Moores (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Birds Korea National Coordinator Ms. Park Meena, Birds Korea Formal
Advisor on Saemangeum Mr. Ju Yong-Ki and other key activists
(including members of the Nakdong Estuary Conservation Group), to
discuss the conservation of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and to
conduct joint media interviews on the impacts of reclamation on this
extremely rare migrant bird.
For more details on the October 13th schedule,
and to request images of Spoon-billed Sandpiper for media use,
Birds Korea National Coordinator, Ms Park Meena
Tel: 011 837 0804
Birds Korea Formal Advisor on Saemangeum and the Geum Estuary, Mr. Ju Yong-Ki
Tel: 018. 221. 7977
2) The Birdlife International Press Release
can now be found at: Birdlife International Press Release
3) RSPB Press Release
Knife in the back for spoon-billed bird
One of the world’s most unusual birds has
suffered a second blow to its chances of survival.
The spoon-billed sandpiper, a small wading bird with
a spatula-shaped bill, has declined by 70 per cent in 20 years on
breeding grounds in Russia where conservationists fear only 100
Disturbance by dogs roaming wild from nearby
villages is largely responsible for losses of these
ground-nesting birds that migrate 15,000 miles to and from their
Arctic nesting sites each year.
Their demise in Russia follows the drainage of
Saemangeum wetland in South Korea, previously the most important
refuelling stop-over for spoon-billed sandpipers and many other
long-distance species. The RSPB and BirdLife International believe
that protection for Russian nesting sites is now the only way to
stop the spoon-billed sandpiper from going extinct.
John O’Sullivan, an international specialist
at the RSPB, said: “These birds are in very serious trouble.
They nest close to villages and are easy targets for the dogs, which
frighten adult birds from nests and take their eggs and young.
“These dogs are huskies, guard dogs or hunting
dogs, all owned but living outside and roaming in packs. This is the
most immediate problem the birds are facing but egg collecting,
hunting and the melting of permafrost because of climate change
could also be affecting them.”
Spoon-billed sandpipers are the rarest birds in the
Arctic. Worldwide, they have plunged in number by 80 per cent in the
last 40 years and on some breeding sites in Russia’s Chukotka
and Kamchatka provinces by more than two thirds in two decades.
Conservationists say up to ten wardens are needed to
patrol nesting sites to ward off the dogs and other threats. “They
would keep a close eye on the nests and work with villagers to
control their dogs,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“They would be local people and would
understand how to influence others living in the villages. Most
locals don’t know just how rare these birds are. The wardens
would educate both adults and children and would find their own
solutions to problems.”
Spoon-billed sandpipers have also been harmed by the
completion 18 months ago of a 20-mile wall blocking out the sea from
Saemangeum wetland, on South Korea’s Yellow Sea coast. The
area has become a wasteland, prompting a public outcry. About 70,000
hectares of coastal wetlands have been lost to Korean drainage
projects threatening more than 30 bird species with starvation.
The RSPB’s Sarah Dawkins has worked with Birds
Korea studying the birds of Saemangeum. She said: “The Yellow
Sea is the East Asian equivalent of Britain’s estuaries and
the Wadden Sea combined. It is by far the most important staging
post for migrating birds in the region. The problems in Russia mean
spoon-billed sandpipers are facing a double whammy. We must do
everything we can to save those that remain and give them a chance
of increasing their numbers.”
BirdLife International is appealing for funds to
pay for wardens in Chukotka. Richard Grimmett, BirdLife’s
Global Conservation Manager, said: “The recent declines have
shocked those concerned about the spoon-billed sandpiper but with
investment and dedication we can still save the species.”
Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Vice President of the
Russian Bird Conservation Union, said: “If declines in Russia
continue, these amazing birds won’t be around for much longer.
There is no doubt that these birds are close to extinction and
protecting their breeding sites is the first, most important step we
can take. Action to safeguard them needs to be taken now, for there
to be any chance of saving them.”
John O’Sullivan: 01767 693161.
Martin Fowlie BirdLife International: 01223 279813 /
07899 045106 / email@example.com
Cath Harris, RSPB 07739 921464.
Please call Cath Harris or Martin Fowlie for images
of spoon-billed sandpipers.
Notes to editors:
- The spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus
pygmeus, breeds only in the Russian Far East. It is 14-16cm long
with a reddish-brown head, neck and chest and a very distinctive
bill, shaped like a spatula, which it uses for feeding in estuarine
habitats. The bird depends on active, sea-washed estuaries on
migration and in winter and loss of these tidal flats is its main
threat, causing an extremely rapid decline in recent years.
- Efforts to help spoon-billed sandpipers are
part of BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions
initiative. The project was launched in August 2007 and aims to save
the world’s most threatened birds. More details at
Saemangeum wetland hosted around 400,000 migrating waders negotiating a
15,000-mile round trip between the southern hemisphere and
south-east Asia, and breeding sites in Alaska and Russia. At the
height of migration, more than 150,000 shore birds from at least 34
species sought food at the site in a single day. The Nordmann’s
Greenshank, great knot, Saunders's Gull, black-faced spoonbill and
Chinese egret are other rare birds that depend on Saemangeum. More
details at http://www.restoresaemangeum.com/
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Saemangeum is the number one staging site for
the region’s migrating birds. The second and third most
important refuelling points, the Geum and Nakdong estuaries are also
in South Korea and are also seriously threatened. Next year Seoul
hosts a meeting of the Ramsar Convention, the body that designates
internationally important wetlands.
• The Lodge • Sandy • Beds SG19 2DL
Press office telephone 01767 681577
4) The International Herald Tribune
Russian survey finds spoon-billed sandpiper population on brink of extinction can be found here.