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Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2002 14:24:44 +1000 (EST)
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> From: "Wim Vader" <>
> Subject: a success story on banding
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> During the last days I participated in an ornithological " Barents area "
> seminar in the Pasvik valley in extreme NE Norway, 1 km from the Russian
> border, where one of the issues was the plight of the western populations
> of the Lesser White-fronted Goose (LWFG) Anser erythropus, the most
> threatened of the Arctic geese species. The populations of this goose are
> split in an eastern and a western population, both of maybe 25 000 birds.
> The eastern population winters in some wetlands in China, nests at largely=
> unknown localities in eastern Siberia and has its own grave problems. But
> the present story is about the western population, that nests in scattered=
> populations from Norway in the west to ca the Taimyr peninsula in the east,=
> and which has decreased terribly in the last half century or so. From being=
> an important resource in the beginning of the twentieth century, with up to=
> 10 000 seen at the staging areas in Finland, the species has now become one=
> of the rarest birds in Scandinavia, with maybe 25 pairs in Norway, almost
> none at all left in Sweden, and also very few in Finland. The species is
> therefore of the utmost concern for nature protectionists in Scandinavia,
> and there are several Dvergg=E5s projects.
> The Swedes have followed their own, somewhat controversial route to a
> possible solution, as they are trying to compel the geese to change their
> migration ways, and instead of ---as they always have done---to migrate in=
> easterly and south-easterly directions towards areas of extreme hunting
> pressure, to fly to the much more safe western Europe. To achieve this,
> they brood LWFG-egges under Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis foster parents,=
> and the young then migrate with their foster parents to western Europe and=
> hopefully continue to do so on later years. And indeed I have seen several=
> LWFG in Holland the last years, where they earlier were a great rarity.
> But Ingar =D8yen of the Norwegian LWFG project and Petteri Tolvanen of the=
> Finnish project (the two cooperate very tightly) were the people present at=
> the seminar  this week, and so they told mostly on the plight of the geese=
> on their own migration route, and on their long and hard work to find out
> exactly where the geese go on migration, and what are the main threats
> there. And to do so, they used all the methods that have been so hotly
> discussed on Birding-aus the last years: they caught the geese on the
> staging area in Finnmark (where I found them myself in the early seventies)=
> with the help of cannon nets, they banded them with both metal and colour
> rings, and they even put transmitters on a number of the geese, so that
> they could follow their migration with the help of satellites.
> As so few LWFG are left, only a few at the time can be caught with
> cannon-netting (and no, there has been no mortality), and originally there=
> were only five radio-marked geese. These, it turned out, to the surprise of=
> many, flew straight east from the nesting places in Scandinavia to a
> wetland near Cape Kanin in northern Russia, and this turned out to be a
> very important staging area for all the Scandinavian LWFG; in a wonderfully=
> quick bureaucratic reaction, the leadership of the Autonomic Nenets
> Republic declared the entire wetland area a nature reserve only 1 1/2 years=
> after its importance was realized! The five marked geese split up after
> leaving Cape Kanin, three flew further east still and then ---as it became=
> clear afterwards--- joined the Russian LWFG on their migration route.
> Significantly, and sadly, two were soon shot, but the third arrived at a
> wetland in Kazakhstan (where it was also shot). the other two geese
> migrated along a more southerly route and could be followed through stays
> in eastern Germany and Hungary to a wintering area in the Evros delta in NE=
> Greece.
> Later banding and radiomarking work confirmed these first results: the
> Scandinavian geese split up in a part flying along a westerly route, via
> Kap Kanin,  Estonia--where another important (and now protected) staging
> area was discovered-- probably Poland, and Hungary (where the local
> authorities now manipulate the water level in some ponds during the right
> season in order to help the geese) to wintering areas in Greece. While the=
> other half fly east from Cape Kanin and join the Russian nesters to a very=
> important staging area in Kazakhstan, which was discovered thanks to these=
> radio-marked birds,  and confirmed by the return of banded birds by the
> hunters of the area. The Norwegians and Finnish workers have, together with=
> local ornithologists, visited these Kazakhstan wetlands, and found them to=
> be of very great importance for many species of geese and other
> wildfowl---i.a. most of the world's Red-breasted Geese stop over here on
> migration. The local authorities are positive and want to help, and they
> have i.a. declared the Red-breasted Geese a protected species, but for the=
> LWFG the situation is much more complicated as they occur here  mixed with=
> much larger numbers of the much more common White-fronted Geese Anser
> albifrons, and the two species are hard to identify in the field, so that
> one can not protect one without protecting the other, while the hunting is=
> of great economic importance for the poor local Kazakhs. (One possible
> solution is to try to get the hunters to concentrate on the more easily
> identified Greylag Geese Anser anser instead, a still larger and fatter
> bird; but the White-fronted Geese are by far the most numerous goose in the=
> area.)
> The hunting pressure is so great in this area, in spite of the protection
> afforded by the authorities, that very few radio-marked or even banded
> birds make it past Kazakhstan. Also, the senders, developed for larger
> geese, have a shorter life on the lighter LWFG (smaller batteries, while
> solar panels cannot be used, as the geese shuffle their feathers and hide
> the entire senders from view). And these two factors , plus the fact that
> the bird is so rare that only small numbers can ever be caught and banded,=
> have in fact conspired to make the wintering areas of these Russian LWFG
> still unknown; they leave the Kazakh wetlands in late autumn, and nobody
> knows where they go next. What the geese workers propose to do now, is to
> go to Kazakhstan again themselves and try to catch and mark birds there;
> maybe then they can find out the true wintering area, and assess the
> threats there, plus work for the  local protection of the LWFG and the
> conservation of the areas involved .
> I found this a most instructive story on the positive use of banding and
> marking methods (and for the diehards among you, no, the decrease started
> many years before any LWFG was ever banded!) in order to learn more about
> the biology, migration and wintering patterns of a bird species, and the
> follow-up with  different conservation methods (Many posters in the local
> language tell  in the different countries about the plight of the LWFG in
> the different areas where the birds rest and stop over, and the local
> response is most encouraging). But we are in a hurry, as the decrease is
> still continuing, albeit at a much slower rate.
> Wim Vader, Troms=F8 Museum
> 9037 Troms=F8, Norway
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