News Thai Spoon-billed Sandpiper site being developed

This page contains 3 reader comments. Click here to view (latest Sat 30/07/16 11:26).

A key wintering site for Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the Bay of Bangkok is currently being filled in to make way for a solar farm.

Situated in the Samut Sakhon province to the south-west of Bangkok, the saltpans at Khok Kham are world-renowned among the birding world for holding large numbers of migrating and wintering shorebirds, including several Spoon-billed Sandpipers, every year. Other species such as the Endangered Nordmann's Greenshank and Great Knot are also regularly seen here.

The news comes as a blow to Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation in the wake of positive outcomes at Slimbridge, where the species bred in captivity for the first time this year, and in Russia, where 30 'headstarted' chicks were released in mid-July and a previously unknown breeding area was discovered earlier in the month.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper
The saltpans at Khok Kham hold small numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpipers each winter (Photo: Baz Scampion)

Despite the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST) lobbying the Thai government to attempt to make Khok Kham a Ramsar site in recent years, approximately a fifth of the entire site is currently being filled in for the solar farm, which will produce three megawatts of power when it commences operations in December.

The owner of the saltpans being used for the solar farm, Wai Rodtayoi, said farmers like him are not worried about the impact on the birds because leasing the land to the solar farm operator is far more profitable than conservation. Mr Wai explained: "We don't get anything from the birds. They just come here to catch fish and we don't earn anything from that. We cannot hunt them because it is against the law and they also eat the fish from our ponds. We prefer the solar farm over the birds because we will receive a substantial amount of cash from it."

According to Sunseap Energy Co Ltd, the land owner will receive over 1 million Thai baht (approx £21,700) per year for the 25-year lease. Mr Wai said that the traditional occupation of producing salt in the area was no longer sustainable as the price of salt is now only about 1,000 baht (£21.70) per 1.5 tonnes. He added that many of the farmers are now too old to continue panning for salt and that the newer generation is not interested in the work.

Thathaya Pittayapa of BCST explained that the remainder of the 200 rai (320,000m²) of salt basin at Samut Sakhon is likely to disappear because there is no law in Thailand to conserve bird populations and their habitats on private land.

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (3)

Tragic but surely foreseeable news. With all the of the funds being ploughed into the (very promising) captive breeding and brood management programmes it's very surprising that simple community outreach seems to have been missed. The very first priority should have been in securing the natural habitat - and this would have been a fraction of the cost of the current programmes. We can only hope that it isn't too late to acquire the remainder of the site, otherwise we can release as many captive grown birds, but if they have nowhere to feed it is tragically pointless.
   Andrew Benbow, 29/07/16 15:33Report inappropriate post Report 
Andrew, I totally agree with your comment. I presume that the value of poor quality land such as this would be low, but do I wonder as to what area would need to be purchased to provide an adequate habitat for wintering and migrant birds. Even at a low price the eventual cost could be substantial. I would imagine that this could not be funded locally and so would require donations from elsewhere in the world.

I would add that the second priority should be in identifying if there...more more
   Jeff Clarke, 29/07/16 18:59Report inappropriate post Report 
Oh the irony of all of this. Surely one-in-the eye for all of those well meaning alternative energy supporters, and a reminder that a big problem with alternative energy is that it is land / surface area hungry. The first rule of conservation surely should be 'save the habitat'. Thank goodness we have wildlife charities here in the UK that do just that.
   Phil Rhodes, 30/07/16 11:26Report inappropriate post Report 

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