New hope for two of the world's most endangered birds

While numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpiper appear to be more than feared, it is still very much under the threat of extinction. Photo: Michelle and Peter Wong.
While numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpiper appear to be more than feared, it is still very much under the threat of extinction. Photo: Michelle and Peter Wong.
A multinational survey team has found a record total of two of the world's most threatened waders on the Chinese coast.

The survey, conducted by the conservation network 'SBS in China' on 15-19 October, recorded 140 Spoon-billed Sandpipers and 1,200 Nordmann’s Greenshank, on passage in Rudong Jinagsu Province.

"We believe the entire world population of the adult population of both Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmannn’s Greenshank are staging at the highly productive intertidal flats on the coast of Rudong", stated Dr Nigel Clark from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), highlighting its vital importance for the survival of both species.

Representatives of the local and provincial government announced the creation of a special wetland reserve for Spoon-billed Sandpiper during a workshop following the survey. “This is a historic moment in the conservation of the species. For the first time since our efforts to conserve the species began in 2000, we can realistically hope to save the species from extinction”, concluded Dr Christoph Zöckler, co-ordinator of the SBS Task Force, who organised the survey and workshop with Jing Li and Tong Menxiu from SBS in China.

The survey, supported by an international team from the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (SBS) Task Force, confirmed the outstanding international conservation importance of intertidal wetlands along the 120 km of coastline between Dongtai and Rudong, Jiangsu Province.

Many of the most important sites along the Jiangsu coast are threatened by continuing land reclamation for agricultural and industrial development. However, local and provincial authorities now recognise the international importance of the area, as shown by their announcement of the creation of a new protected area for Spoon-billed Sandpiper. This, together with two shellfish reserves which overlap with most of the wader feeding areas, give the first protection to this vital link in the chain of wetlands that these two species depend on to get from their breeding areas in the Arctic to their wintering sites in tropical south-east Asia. It is hoped that these fledgling reserves will eventually achieve protection at provincial and national level.

"Our surveys confirm the intertidal wetlands of Rudong as the most important remaining stop-over site for Spoon-billed Sandpiper during its 8,000 km long migration route. Protecting these internationally important intertidal wetlands is vital for the sandpiper’s survival, and also for the maintenance of the shellfishery and other vital services provided by tidal-flats”, stated Jing Li (Co-ordinator of SBS in China).

As part of this work, Professor Chang Qing of Nanjing Normal University, who advises the Forest Department of the Jiangsu Province on environmental issues, stated: "We now hope to create a working group of local government and NGOs that involves all stakeholders in the future planning of wetland reserves and their management."
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