Written by Christoph Z??ckler/Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Team
The rapid decline in Spoon-billed Sandpipers observed in the breeding grounds in Chukotka, Russia, has lead to a series of expeditions to locate the major wintering area for the species. Surveys conducted in Myanmar between 2008 and 2010 have estimated the current winter population at over 200 birds this is likely to be about half the world population, which is estimated at 120-200 breeding pairs. Within Myanmar the key estuary is the Bay of Martaban. We, the authors of a recent paper published in the Wader Study Group Bulletin, found extensive evidence of hunting of waders in all sites visited with hunting being carried out by the poorest people within each village. The majority of the hunters questioned in a socioeconomic survey of hunters in 26 villages on the east side of the Bay of Martaban were aware of?? Spoon-billed Sandpipers and it is likely that most hunters catch Spoon-billed Sandpipers every year. Spoon-billed Sandpipers are never the target for the hunters but, together with other calidrids tend to be caught more frequently?? in the mist nets that they use than the target species such as Pacific Golden Plover and Curlew. We believe that the reason that Spoon-billed sandpipers are declining more rapidly than other species is because, unlike other species present, their wintering distribution coincides with the areas of particularly high levels of hunting.
A Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Calidris pygmeus) caught by a hunter in the Bay of Martaban, Maynmar, is released by local children after intervention by the Spoonbilled Sandpiper Expedition, January 2010. ?? Rob Robinson/BTO
We, a group of activists, organised in the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Team, believe that it is likely that hunting in the wintering area is a major cause of the species decline but we do not believe that it is the sole cause. Urgent action is needed to find ways to give the local hunters economic alternatives to hunting.?? We also established that the local population on coastal Myanmar is very interested and willing to cooperate in finding solutions. An awareness campaign will help to persuade hunters to release any Spoon-billed Sandpipers that they catch and ultimately aim to completely stop bird hunting along the coasts, as it is not sustainable and threatening also other waders, such as the Broad-billed sandpiper, that has also been observed in big numbers. It is also vitally important to designate the Bay of Martaban for its large waterbird populations. With a annual rate of decline of over 20% we believe that without conservation action the Spoon-billed sandpiper will become extinct within the next 10 to 20 years.