Together we’re fighting to save spoon-billed sandpipers, or Spoonies, from extinction!

In this live broadcast, from 2015, Kate Humble takes you behind the scenes for the very first time to hear exclusive news from the people in the front line of conservation efforts.

The spoon-billed sandpiper conservation breeding programme is a collaboration between WWT, Birds Russia, Moscow Zoo and the RSPB working with colleagues from the BTO, BirdLife International, ArcCona and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force. Special thanks are also due to Leica Camera AG as WWT’s exclusive optic partner & Telestream for supporting our live streaming.


WWT specialists alongside our partners undertook audacious multi-national expeditions to the wilderness of the north-east Russian tundra – bringing back spoonie chicks and eggs to WWT Slimbridge.

We now have a protected population of 24 spoonies here in the UK. And if they breed successfully, the ‘ark population’ will be a vital lifeline for the survival and future reintroduction of the species should they become extinct in the wild.


Giving Spoonies a headstart in life

It takes place on the Russian breeding grounds. It’s called headstarting. And it works.

By retrieving eggs from incubating birds – early on so they’re able to lay a second clutch - we're able to raise the chicks in a specially constructed enclosure right in the heart of the spoonies' breeding grounds.

Last year, in areas where we did headstarting, the number of fledged birds in the wild populations increased by 25%.

But headstarting doesn’t just help boost the wild population and buy us vital time. Our work is helped by 'Flagging' spoonies - where very lightweight coloured identification flags are attached to the birds before they’re released.

And thanks to a network of spotters on the ground, we are quickly able to find out about sightings of these birds all along their flyway. With this data, we're building a detailed picture of both migratory routes and bird numbers - vital information for tackling the man-made risks to the spoonies' survival.


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Headstarting and our ‘ark population’ buys the spoonies vital time. Time which WWT - alongside our partners - can use to continue conservation work on the ground.

Working with our international partners we’ll share our findings with governments, local communities and businesses along the Pacific coast of Asia and into the Bay of Bengal to continue reducing the many threats faced by spoonies and millions of other waterbirds, including illegal hunting and the destruction of intertidal wetland habitats.