Every year the entire global population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper travels through China on its north- and southwards migrations. However, most of the millions of people who live in eastern China are unaware that this small wader, which is on the brink of extinction, relies on coastal wetlands in their country.
Over the past two years, BirdLife’s project “Saving Spoony’s Chinese wetlands” – supported by Disney Friends for Change – has worked to raise awareness of this species and of the value of coastal wetlands for birds and people. The project has focussed on the two most important known sites for Spoon-billed Sandpiper in China, Rudong in Jiangsu Province and the Min Jiang Estuary in Fujian Province.
Barrie Cooper, International Education Manager from the RSPB, helped to run successful training workshops on environmental education at these two sites in 2011. The training was mainly for members of the Wild Bird Society of Shanghai and the Fujian Birdwatching Society, however local educators also attended. The participants received a variety of ideas on how to reach schoolchildren and local communities in fun and interactive ways, and they have subsequently run environmental education programmes in local schools and awareness events.
Several benefits have already been noticed since the workshops with an increasing number of people becoming aware of the importance of these sites for Spoon-billed sandpiper. One participant who was at the Fujian workshop was nine year old Tina who attended with her mother Wendy. Tina was already interested in birds but the workshop seemed to inspire her to take real and effective action to raise awareness of the importance of the Min Jiang Estuary for Spoony and other globally threatened species like Chinese Crested Tern.
Tina has been translating articles from the RSPB Wildlife Explorer magazine and posting them to the website of the Fujian Birdwatching Society so that others can learn about conservation. She has also been training teachers and students in her school and another school about Spoony and the joys of birdwatching.
She has visited the estuary on a regular basis since the workshops and with guidance from members of Fujian Birdwatching Society has seen several Spoonies wintering there and witnessed the return of Chinese Crested Tern in the spring. Tina has now been the subject of a fifteen minute piece on local TV. The TV story showed Tina birdwatching on the estuary and provided her with the opportunity to talk about her passion for birds, including Spoony.
“It is inspiring to see how Wild Bird Society of Shanghai and the Fujian Birdwatching Society have followed up on the training workshop, and in particular that young people are helping to spread the word in creative and effective ways” said Barrie Cooper. “Let’s hope that the message gets through to decision-makers and that the coastal wetlands that Spoony needs to sustain its migration will be protected”.