The decision to set up a captive population of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper was not an easy one to make. However, when a species is this rare, it becomes necessary to consider every possible option. For Spoon-billed Sandpiper, establishing a captive breeding population is a good option! Because so few Spoon-billed Sandpiper chicks are currently surviving to breeding age, removal of a small number of chicks will not have a significant impact on the adult breeding population. In contrast, if the captive breeding mission is successful, it could be hugely beneficial to the survival of this spectacular species. To read more background to the captive breeding program, click here.
The process of establishing a captive population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper is described in the following stages.
Stage 1: Establish a field station The first step is to establish a field station located close to one of the breeding areas of wild Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Stage 2: Nest finding Spoon-billed Sandpiper nests will be located by experienced arctic wader field workers. These experts will ensure that there is minimal disturbance to the adult birds.
Stage 3: Egg collection Up to 20 Spoon-billed Sandpiper eggs will be collected for artificial incubation and hatching at the field station.
Stage 4: Egg incubation to the point of hatching Eggs will be transferred to an incubator powered by mains electricity in the field station. Once hatched, chicks will be accommodated in special rearing units to meet all their needs. These chicks will be photographed daily to record their plumage development.
Stage 5: Rearing the chicks at the field station Chicks will be continuously monitored and cared for in the field station until they reach fledgling age.
Stage 6: Transport to Moscow Zoo The chicks will then be taken from the field station to Moscow Zoo, where they will spend about a month in the expert care of the Moscow Zoo keepers.
Stage 7: Flying to the UK (by plane!) Fledged birds will be transported to the conservation captive breeding facility at the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in the UK in specially constructed boxes. The young birds will have access to food and water and vocal, but not visual, contact with other birds at all times when in transport boxes.
Stage 8: Settling in and Breeding! Hopefully once based at Slimbridge, the young Spoon-billed Sandpipers will flourish and the captive population will grow! They will be receiving all the care and attention possible. You can follow the progress of this captive breeding population by regularly checking this site.
The entire process will take years of hard work. But hopefully, once established, the captive population will allow scientists to better understand the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and will act as a source for future reintroductions to the wild. The program will only have been truly successful once reintroduced individuals are successfully breeding in a secure and healthy wild environment.