Nature lovers have long sought out a glimpse of the unusual and attractive spoon-billed sandpiper on the wetlands of South Asia. Its rarity is as much a draw as its unique looks, but recently it seemed it might be lost to us forever when numbers plummeted to just fewer than 100 pairs.
The shock focused the world’s attention while WWT and other conservation organisations put everything we could towards preventing its imminent extinction. A lot has been achieived in a short time.
We now have a spoon-billed sandpiper breeding programme at Slimbridge – the world’s only insurance policy against the species total extinction. We have increased the number of young birds that are hatched and fledge from the Russian breeding grounds each year by intervening and hand-rearing chicks. Illegal trapping in Myanmar and Bangladesh is being tackled successfully by helping hunters find other livelihoods. We have put huge effort into monitoring spoon-billed sandpipers in the wild and are now uncovering the mysteries of where they go and when. Behind the scenes, there has been a lot of international diplomacy to try to secure wetland habitat for them along one of the world’s most populous and rapidly developing coastlines.
The good news is that for the first time the number of spoon-billed sandpipers appears to have now stopped falling, though it is still at a perilously low level. We need to keep doing all we can to help secure a future for the spoon-billed sandpiper. And what’s good for the spoon-billed sandpiper will also help other birds that migrate along the East Asian coast.