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LWfG Bulletin

2010 - No. 4

December 2010


Muut numerot



2002 - No 1

2001 - No 1

2002 - No 2

2002 - No 1

2003 - No 1

2002 - No 2

2003 - No 2

2003 - No 1

2004 - No 1 special issue

2003 - No 2

2004 - No 2

2004 - No 2

2005 - No 1

2005 - No 1

2007 - No 3 pdf

2005 - No 2

2008 - No 4

2006 - No 1

2009 - No 1 (Plan 2. ed.)

2007 - No 1

2009 - No 4

2007 - No 2

2010 - No 2 (Brochure pdf)

2007 - No 4 pdf

2010 - No 4

2008 - No 1 (Suojelusuunnitelma.1)


2008 - No 2

2008 - No 3

2009 - No 2 (Esite)

2009 - No 3

2010 - No 1

2010 - No 3

2011 - No 1


LWfG Bulletin 4/10:

For pdf versions or paper copies, take contact to the Society

Translator's Note

Lauri Kahanpää

Dear Friend.

Three issues of the Bulletin have already appeared in 2010. Number 2 is our English brochure. The two other issues are our ordinary Finnish Bulletins. This issue - number 4 - contains English translations of most of the material in the Finnish Bulletins number 1 and 3 / 2010.


Absurd, unbelievable

Antti Haapanen

The past year was really hard for our society. Our central aim is and remains the reintroduction of the Lesser White-fronted Goose in Finnish Lapland where these birds once were abundant. Already this is a challenging task for a small group like us, but having simultaneously to fight against ill-willing powers has made progress almost impossible. For the Geese, this year was almost lost

The most recent problem dates back to 2006, when we applied for and were granted a permit to catch some Barnacle Geese to be used as foster parents for released Lesser White-fronted Geese. They were never caught, since there was an appeal against the permit to the Turku local administrative court and finally to the highest administrative court which did not reverse the earlier positive decision by the Turku local administrative court. The problem is that the final positive decision came three years late in spring 2009 when our permit for three years' catching was obsolete already!

Last summer, we only had two pairs of suitable foster parent birds left. Unfortunately, due to bad weather conditions, one of the pairs did not breed at all, and the other did not breed at the same time with any pair of our LWfG. So we had no family to release.

This was just one problem. There also exists another unnecessary legal conflict. Our chairman, together with Pentti Alho and Matti Haapanen have been running to the police to explain our activities. We have been accused for having broken the law, namely the 43:1 § of the Finnish Nature Conservation Act, which prohibits releasing non-native species into the wild, if they might form a viable population. Two years imprisonment is the maximum punishment for such an offence.

The idea that we could have done anything illegal is absurd &endash; unbelievable.

Remember, on 7.9.2005 Pentti Alho won the law suit when he had been prosecuted for the same "offence". That time we had released Lesser White-fronted Geese into nature in Lapland. So this activity was declaredly legal. Since no application to a higher court was made, the decision gives us the right to continue. A final court decision has to be respected. No one can be sued repeatedly for identical actions. It seems, the Ministry of the Environment is aware of these legal principles. That is why they have invented the idea to declare the Barnacle Goose a non-native species, so there is at least a new aspect in their repeated accusation.

The following reasons prove that nothing unlawful has taken place:

  1. The Barnacle Goose is not a non-native species, since it has naturally expanded its range to the Baltic area, including Finland, and is still expanding naturally
  2. The Bird Directive of the European Union concerns all naturally occurring wild bird species and the Barnacle Goose is included in appendix 1, a list of strictly protected original species. No species can be both strictly protected original and non-native or even harmful invasive.
  3. In 2003, the Society was given an explicit permit to catch Barnacle Geese in 2003-2005 to be released in Enontekiö, Finnish Lapland. This is what was done.
  4. There exists the legal principle mentioned above, according to which a Finnish citizen has the right to trust final court decisions, and no one can be sued twice for the same cause. Final decisions are considered to rest on complete clarification of the matter in question. The cases in 2004 and 2009 are identical.

We have not been sued formally (yet?). In early 2011, the prosecutor has promised to evaluate the charges in the matter. This means that the prosecutor evaluates, whether a criminal offence has been committed and whether there is sufficient evidence for a prosecution to be warranted. The alternatives are the following:

  1. The prosecutor decides not to start any trial.
  2. The prosecutor sends the matter to the local Court in Lapland which then decides whether any criminal offence has been committed.

Unfortunately, this annoying process is not the only problem consuming our valuable time. In 2009 we &endash; of course &endash; had to repeat our application to catch Barnacle Geese for foster parent purposes. This time, our application was rejected both in Helsinki, and in Turku regional environmental centres, so we had to apply for correction at the local administrative courts. Without foster parent birds, the Lesser White-fronted Goose would have no hope.

What makes things interesting is that the local administrative court in Turku has not given any verdict at all, whereas we received a negative decision from Helsinki, and had to apply for revision at the Highest Administrative Court. We remember, that last time the Turku Administrative Court was willing to grant us the permits to catch Barnacle Geese, and that the Highest Administrative Court did not change that decision in 2009.

The central question is the claim by the governmental bodies, that the Barnacle Goose should be considered an (invasive) alien/non-native species in Finland &endash; or locally in Lapland &endash; and that there is a risk of their uncontrolled expansion by our activity. We have explained the obvious biological reasons, why this cannot be the case. Also, declaring the Barnacle Goose a non-native species clearly violates the EU Bird Directive &endash; as mentioned above. Later in winter - or maybe in spring- we will probably have a last chance to give our final explanation before the matter is taken to court for decision. There is no way to know when the final decision by the Highest Administrative Court can be expected. Whenever that will be and whatever the decision may be, the enemies of the Lesser White-fronted Goose have again been able to delay all efforts to re-introduce the species in Finland. The longer it takes, the more it will cost both in money and &endash; above all &endash; in further damage to the remains of the Russian LWfG population when the captive population may be lost and must be replaced by catching birds from Nature.

A third legal issue is our new formal complaint to the Chancellor of Justice concerning the "Action Plan for Protection of the Lesser White-fronted Goose", ratified by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment on March 2. 2009, and identical with the 27.2.2008 draft proposed by BirdLife Finland. To the Chancellor of Justice, the Ministry denies having formally ratified a legally binding Plan, but we are afraid it is fully implementing it without informing the public of the legal status. (For details on the Plan, see the Bulletin No 4/09). The Chancellor of Justice's Office has informed us that a decision can be expected some time in early spring 2011.

We hope for positive decisions in all three cases, which would enable us to continue with the project. In the opposite case, we would have to reconsider the situation very seriously.

As chairman, I cannot but hope for endurance and understanding from the side of the Friends. Working out the documents for the law suits has taken much too much of our energy &endash; not only of my own but of the many persons who have assisted me in creating the complaint documents. We have received professional help from both members and outsiders, who do not wish to be thanked by name (so that must wait).

Of course, I must and do thank all the members for their faith in our just persistent aims and philosophy in spite of the circumstances in recent years. You have bravely volunteered at the breeding site, donated material and money. Most of all we &endash; again &endash; have to thank Pentti and Kaija Alho without whose unique effort in taking care of the well-being of the geese, there would be no "Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose" and no hope for reintroduction of these wonderful birds in our country.

Believing in the chances for a brighter future, I wish You all a happy New Year 2011.


Fennoscandian free living Lesser White-fronted Geese

Light at the end of the tunnel &endash; in Norway

Lauri Kahanpää

In August, four Lesser White-fronted Geese were released into the wild in Norway. The experiment &endash; welcome as such &endash; has given results confirming what we know from the similar Finnish project on the 1980:s: No supplementation or reintroduction succeeds without foster parents.


On an internet page, by the Norwegian Ornithological Society one can find observations of the Norwegian Lesser White-fronted Geese, both in Norway and during migration and wintering. In 2010 the page has published some information on recent Norwegian protection plans for their birds.

The Norwegian Action Plan

In September 2009, the Norwegian governmental Nature and wildlife Administration office in Trondheim, Direktoratet for Naturforvaltning published their Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. The document is available at the internet site The Plan, beautifully designed and illustrated by a NOF project contains no fresh ideas or new initiatives. The NOF principles remain the same as always: wait, monitor the geese and hope for the best, in particular for improved conditions like better enforcement of protection measures along the eastern migration routes.

Our activity

Having read the Norwegian Plan, the Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose wrote a formal letter to the Direktoratet for Naturforvaltning paying attention to some of the inconsistencies in the Plan. Already very crude numerical estimates show that the official goal of the Plan, 1000 geese, is impossible to reach by the suggested methods even if they would succeed completely. On the contrary, it is highly probable that the Norwegian LWfG population would go extinct.

A reaction?

We have not yet received an answer to out letter, but it could have been taken seriously. At least Norway took contact to researchers at WWT in Britain, and the specialists Rebecca Lee (, Peter Cranswick, Geoff Hilton and Nigel Jarret wrote a very detailed feasibility study evaluating the need and success chances of an active reintroduction/restocking project in Norway.

The study was written in international cooperation, not only with the Norwegians but with at least the Swedish as well. The Swedish have a key position, since they have both the experience and some captive geese. It seems, Sweden also has benefited from the work of the independent researchers and is currently making a final update of their own plan before finally publishing it. Typically, in Finland nothing like that is happening. Having pushed for acceptance of a "wait and hope for the best"-type plan without even arranging proper hearings, our Ministry of the Environment seems reluctant to admit the existence of independent, professional criticism.

The WWT Feasibility Study

The Study fills 130 pages, and is available at the internet site

And what is the content? It is not possible to reproduce all in this limited space, but let us find some highlights of special interest for us:

4.4.2 Technical resources

In this section the availability of suitable goslings is estimated &endash; critically but still far too optimistically in our opinion:

Technical expertise would be required for many aspects of the programme, particularly captive-breeding, releasing, monitoring of released birds and planning. For best results, a project team should be multidisciplinary containing a wide range of expertise and experience. Captive-breeding expertise exists in the organisations and individuals with experience breeding LWfG and other similar goose species. Nordens Ark and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust are obvious sources of this expertise, but many other organisations and individuals will also be able to contribute. Pentti and Kaija Alho who run the LWfG "farm" located in Hämeenkoski, Southern Finland have considerable experience breeding LWfG.


What interests us most is the need to start restocking in Norway at all. It should be noted, that only restocking of the current East-migrating population is discussed. The Norwegians are (were?) not yet ready to even consider a Swedish type project.


The conservation status of the Norwegian LWfG population, and the lack of significant recovery despite conservation measures, demonstrates the need for supplementation. This view is further supported by the results of population modelling. Indeed, supplementation should be considered a key conservation need to ensure that the conservation efforts in recent years at sites along the migratory routes are not wasted. Should the population be extirpated from Norway there would be a need for re-introduction. Available information suggests that the potential negative impacts of such a programme would be minimal and would be outweighed by the potential benefits... A supplementation/re-introduction programme for LWfG in Norway fulfils the key justification criteria identified in this report (Table 5-1) with the exception of cost-effectiveness. Cost-effectiveness depends on the available resources and priorities of DN and therefore could not be fully-assessed as part of this report.

Table 5-1. Assessment of the key justification criteria for a supplementation/re-introduction of Lesser White-fronted Geese in Norway using the populations traditional migratory routes.
  1. Key justification criteria
    1. Is the species/population extinct or facing a high risk of extinction in the wild and is currently in a depleted state, either in terms of distribution or number? YES!
    2. Or has the species/population undergone a significant decline and is currently in a depleted state, either in terms of distribution or number? YES!
    3. Are existing conservation measures insufficient for recovery within a reasonable timescale? YES
  2. Benefits, costs and impacts
    1. Would the programme's benefits outweigh potential negative impacts? YES!
    2. Would the programme be cost-effective? (Cost-effectiveness depends on the available resources and priorities of DN and therefore could not be fully-assessed as part of this report)
  3. Policy requirements
    1. Would the programme's aims and objectives be in line with existing, relevant conservation plans and policies, particularly the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions and any existing Action Plans? YES

Based on the above assessment, a reintroduction / supplementation of LWfG in Norway using traditional migratory routes can be considered justified assuming the programme is deemed cost effective. This conclusion is based on available information and current circumstances. The justification assessment should be reviewed if additional information becomes available or circumstances change. Any supplementation/re-introduction should only be undertaken as part of a wider conservation programme for LWfG, as only with the additional measures of such a programme will long-term survival of the population be achieved. Given that conservation measures are already being undertaken in parts of the range, a supplementation/re-introduction could be considered as necessary to ensure that those efforts in recent years have not been in vain.

The final decision with regard to justification will depend on the conclusions of DN with input as appropriate from other members of the RECAP committee. If allocating funds to a reintroduction/ supplementation programme for LWfG would jeopardize other conservation programmes either for LWfG or other species, the potential impacts of this must be factored into decision-making.


The feasibility of both supplementing and re-introducing LWfG within the range of the existing Norwegian population using traditional migratory routes was assessed by considering biological, environmental and technical factors; socioeconomic, political and legal factors; resource requirements; and time constraints.

Obtaining a suitable source of birds to release will depend on the cooperation of authorities in Russia and/or the Swedish EPA. Available information suggests that a captive source population is preferable to a wild source population considering the logistical difficulties of moving birds from the wild in Russia to suitable release sites. Captive-breeding techniques for LWfG are well-established and it may be possible to provide 20 birds for release as soon as the summer of 2012 if the Nordens Ark population with the addition of birds from the wild are used as a source population.

Release techniques for the species are known but it is unclear how successful the techniques would be for LWfG in Norway, particularly with regard to establishing migratory habit in released birds such that the birds use the traditional migratory routes.

The critical needs of the species are known, and suitable habitat for released birds is available at known breeding, staging and wintering sites. These sites, however, have varying degrees of protection and are vulnerable to various threats. Available evidence suggests the original causes of decline at these sites have not been eliminated and have probably not been reduced to a level sufficient to allow for significant population increase.

It will likely be possible to gain stakeholder support for both a supplementation and a re-introduction if the programme is conducted in line with the IUCN Guidelines for Re-introductions (44) and effective public awareness campaigns are conducted. Possible exceptions could include stakeholders negatively impacted by restrictions at or near the existing breeding grounds. Available information suggests a programme would conform to laws and regulations in Norway, but if birds are to be released outside Norway, the laws and regulations of the country in question would need to be considered.

Significant financial resources would be required for a supplementation or re-introduction programme. A preliminary estimation of costs based on UK prices suggests that a 20 year programme could cost approximately 48,580,000 NOK (7,504,592 USD). Whilst DN is likely to be the primary funding body, consideration should be given to forming partnerships with other organisations to increase funding opportunities and reduce the risk of administrative discontinuity. The technical resources required could be provided by various organisations with expertise and experience in the relevant project areas. ...

This is the main news for us in the WWT report:

The Norwegian experiment

On August 26 2010, four Lesser White-fronted Geese were released into the wild in Norway. The birds came from the new Swedish breeding site at Nordens Ark, to where about two dozen LWfG freshly caught in the Polar Urals have been imported in recent years. The birds were released near Porsanger Fjord, where all Norwegian LWfG had gathered before migration.

Two of the birds carried satellite transmitters, one of the back pack type that we also use, the other a neck collar transmitter. All were neck ringed with black collars marked A09, A16, A17 & A18. Since then, information is flowing in.

The natural flock at Porsanger consisted of 23 adults and 35 juveniles. Apparently no one year old birds were present, probably none survive or they may already have started to their grand tour via Taimyr. On September 14, the flock lifted off for migration and headed East. A large part of the flock, 40 geese, were later seen near Hortobagy, Hungary, and most of them seem to stay over winter in Greece, where 53 LWfG have been sighted &endash; all without neck collars. So how about the released birds? Before migration, they had seemingly joined the wild flock, but they did not fly with them. Instead, both satellite geese stayed near the release area for a week or two, and then the neck collar transmitter failed. The back pack bird flew south, and was soon located in Finland at a site called Ådöfjärden near Jakobstad (=Pietarsaari), where it and its possible companions were hiding. Soon the goose flew on.

YLE Finnish Radio September 29 2010

"The Lesser White-fronted Goose with a satellite transmitter, which last week was located in Österbotten, Finland is probably in Sweden now. A preliminary satellite location came yesterday from close to Stockholm. Researchers are surprised of the migration direction, since in the flock with wild LWfG, it should have continued to Estonia or Russia. The leader of the Finnish programme, Petteri Tolvanen from WWF Finland holds it for possible that the captive born bird may be physically weaker than the wild birds, and therefore has left their flock. According to Tolvanen, it is also possible, that the goose has joined some other goose species like Greylag or Bean Goose. It may also just have made its own decision to fly to Sweden. All this is only speculations at the moment, Tolvanen says.

The direction is completely wrong. Wild LWfG stay over winter in the South or East but this captive born goose decided to fly West. Petteri Tolvanen from WWF Finland is convinced of that this goose cannot find its way to the South alone. It is now on its own, since a captive born goose has not learned the correct migration behaviour of its mother. No information of the route taken by the wild flock is available. One intention with the project was that the captive born satellite transmitter carrying bird could have revealed the migration route of the main flock, if it had followed the wild birds. Unfortunately this information is now out of reach at least until next year, which is very regrettable, since after all that was one important idea behind the whole project, Tolvanen says. Tolvanen wishes, that the satellite transmitter goose will over winter and when returning in spring, find again the flock of the wild LWfG. But he thinks this is not probable."

There is no news of the other birds with neck collars. It seems, they have not joined the main flock either. Otherwise they should have been seen already.

The reoleased birds do not followe the natural flock

Our conclusion

Nothing points at the ability of released LWfG to join a flock of wild birds for migration. The experience of the Finnish restocking experiment was completely confirmed. The Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose consider this evidence sufficient to prove that the thoroughly tested and abandoned former Finnish release method does not work under Norwegian conditions either. The LWfG at Nordens Ark are far too valuable to be wasted on more experiments of this kind.

If the Norwegians still insist on teaching their released birds an Eastern migration pattern, they cannot use Barnacle Geese as foster parents, since Barnacle Geese migrate South-West. Only two alternatives remain: They could use ultra light aircraft like in the German-Swedish planned Project, or they could use their own Lesser White-fronted Geese as foster parents. They might try to add eggs to natural nests, which could possibly be found by radio tagging some wild birds. In our opinion that kind of project seems far too risky.


The Swedish Action Plan almost in action

Lauri Kahanpää

Sweden is the only country which has prepared their Action Plan respecting the principles of democratic and open decision making.

The original draft for a Swedish Action Plan was written by Åke Andersson from the Swedish supplementation project. That was in 2004. The draft was available to all interested, and it was widely distributed. On Feb 15.-16- 2005, the government of the province Norrbotten generously invited (and paid for!) all stakeholders to a two days' hearing in Luleå.

Taking into account the ideas and information from the hearing, the local government continued fine tuning the draft, and a new version was published in 2007. It underwent the same treatment &endash; again an international two days' seminar was organized in Norrbotten. Last summer, an "almost final" version was distributed to all for final comments before it will be ratified by the National authority Naturvårdsverket. The final draft can be viewed at [Lehtikuvat2010/2010Atgardsprogram.pdf]. On September 10. 2010 he Friends of the LWfG have written a letter to Norrbotten, corrected a couple of minor errors, and expressed our gratitude and admiration. We expect the Plan to be ratified and implemented in the nearest future.

In contrast to the other Nordic countries, Sweden already has a well functioning supplementation project and more than a hundred LWfG are breeding in the Wild in Sweden. These birds stay in the territory of the European Union during their whole life cycle and over winter in specially protected areas in the Netherlands. In Sweden, a central planning question has been, how to combine future supplementation efforts with the previous ones. At the time when the reintroduced birds were suspected of carrying Greater White-fronted Goose genes, there even was a discussion about possibly removing them from Nature, or catching them alive, to gene test all, and return only the "clean" ones to freedom. This was thoroughly clarified in a feasibility study at Lund University. The complete report of the feasibility study can be downloaded at . The final conclusion of the study is, that the worst alternative would be to catch and test the birds. This would be risky, expensive and would not lead to results. It must be as clear to the writer of the study, Dr. Richard Ottvall as it is to us, that the Swedish LWfG stand under strict EU protection, so killing them is out of the question. Today this also seems irrelevant, since new research has confirmed that the Swedish birds are no more hybrids than other wild LWfG. One option remains: Let them multiply! This is what was done in practise. Since their LWfG population is growing naturally, the Swedes are not as urgently pressed to save the species from immediate local extinction as the Norwegians, not to speak of us Finns, who already lost the game. So it looks like Sweden can take time to build up new captive stock from Russian import. That is what is going on in Nordens Ark. If the new captive population grows and becomes strong enough, supplementation can be continued in Sweden with little resistance, and some goslings were indeed already released in 2010. Relying on the new captive population saves the project from further internal stress, but causes further delay which can prove very expensive. The main cost cannot be calculated in Swedish crowns. The main cost is the risk to the birds. The current population is still unstable, and may be seriously damaged by some unforeseen event like an infection of really bad weather. Another risk is connected with the import from Russia. The European Russian LWfG population was recently found to be very much smaller than previously known (See No 4/09).

One of the Lesser White-fronted Geese ringed and released in 2010. This specimen (red S) is a 2Cd male and one of the "new" in the Swedish population which means an offspring from the new breeding stock emanating from geese imported from western Russia. Photo: Emilia Vesterberg. Observations of ringed geese can be reported to Bo Fagerström, Dalgatan 10, 824 42 Hudiksvall Sweden


Co-operation with Jyväskylä University

The LWfG-projects of the EU.

Presentation at the weekly research seminar of the department of biology and environmental sciences, Feb. 9. 2010

Seppo Vuolanto (Introduction by Lauri Kahanpää)

The weekly research seminar on February 9. 2010 was devoted to problems around reintroducing the Lesser White-fronted Goose. Invited speakers were Seppo Vuolanto and Lauri Kahanpää. We reproduce and translate the main points of Seppo Vuolanto's presentation. Lauri Kahanpää's presentation contains many self-explanatory diagrams and is available in the Finnish issue 3/2010. Also, most of its contents can be found in the Action Plan by the Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose and in the peer reviewed article "Effects of protection measures for Lesser White-fronted Geese Anser erythropus in Europe &endash; Introduction to a web-based population model VOGELWELT 129: 293 &endash; 300 (2008) 293"

During his career in Finnish official Natural Conservation, Seppo Vuolanto had the opportunity to follow and influence the protection efforts at close range. Excerpts from his CV:


Helsinki University, Mus. Zool

Ring and wing marking


Helsinki city planning office



Environmental Administration


Uusimaa provincial government

Environmental protection


Ministry of the Environment

International Biodiversity


U-commission, Brussels

Nature and Bird directives


Estonian Ministry of the Environment

EU-consultation Biodiversity


Ministry of the Environment

International Biodiversity Kv. biodiversiteetti



The First Project

From Finland, all concerned organizations, like hunters, nature conservation volunteers and the relevant governmental bodies were partners in the project co-financed by EU Commission's LIFE fund.

Results of the first project 1999

Main findings of the project were as follows: 1) The species does not breed in Finland any more. In Norway there is one breeding locality and the population is declining. 2) Hunting in the East (former Soviet republics) explains the decline. 3) Lesser and Greater White-fronted Geese species have been found hybridized in captivity.

In addition, the project partners WWF and Häme Environmental Centre (a local governmental authority) were in conflict. The Commission did not understand the reason for this conflict, possibly it was about international cooperation measures. Later on, conflicts are continuing and spreading on the international levels, largely Norway-Finland axis against Sweden.

EU goals after the first project

The Commission wanted to get all Nordic countries jointly in efforts to save the species, including the Swedish LWfG population, and to find out, whether there would be possibilities to increase populations migrating and/or wintering inside the EU territory.

Continuation of the first project:

LIFE starter 2002 &endash; Finland got EU finance for the preparation of a new project.

The Scond Proeject 2005


The LIFE fund of the EU Commission received two applications.

1) A German project, including as a partner Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose ('Friends') who owns the Finnish captive population, and 2) a Finnish-Norwegian project, which was prepared as the LIFE starter project mentioned above.

The Finnish competent authority, the Ministry of the Environment did not approve the first project by the German organizations, which intended to use ultra light aircraft as foster parents in restocking LWfG birds in Sweden. This was a legal obstacle for EU co-funding of the project. Sweden would have approved it. Norway was no partner.

In the second project the following EU-countries were partners: Estonia, Hungary and Greece. Swedish and German bodies were not even asked to join this project.

Results of the second project

More data and information on the migration routes were found out. National Action Plans were worked out &endash; one of them for Finland.

The conflict situation in February 2010 - will the following lead to the extinction of the LWfG?

November 19, 2009, it is read on the WWF Finland's page the following:
  1. "Removing the individuals with Greater White-fronted Goose mitochondria from the captive stock is only a cosmetic operation, just hiding the problem under a carpet."
  2. "In terms of reproduction success, the Swedish wild population is not as viable as the original Nordic LWfG. It is a serious potential genetic threat to the natural LWfG population."
  3. "The 'Friends' acts against the recommendations of the IUCN."
  4. These claims where shared by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and Norway.
Can the LWfG be saved?

Results of the scientific study by Wink et al. (Vogelwelt 2007): Hybridization of LWfG with Greater White-fronted Goose was a misinterpretation of the data in the first Finnish project. The carriers of alien genes (= Greylag genes) can be separated from the captive population, which in all other respects corresponds to the free living population. These study results cancel out the results of the first Finnish project.

Sweden-Germany axis: Sweden hosts the only LWfG population in the EU territory. It is increasing. Sweden also acquired some new wild birds from Russia, which are possible to restock into the nature. Let the natural selection work on the reintroduced population in the wild.

These facts were not recognized in Finland until Nov 19th 2009.

AEWA (the African-European Water bird Agreement) is an inter-governmental body trying to find the "truth", and to which the governments appoint suitable members. AEWA is crucial for conservation of the LWfG, since it is elaborating the international action plan.

The genome of the LWfG &endash; an obstacle for reintroduction?

Questions concerning mitochondrial DNA: Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother side. Is it adequate to explain the phylogeny? Does it justify the WWF accusations? Does the father's role change the picture of an inheritance model? Female LWfG return to their birth places but males follow their partners after pairing in the wintering areas. Genes are intermixing.

The competence of the Finnish Ministry of the Environment to evaluate biological facts (up to February 2010).

The background of the head of the biodiversity department is a lawyer of land-use planning. The head of the unit of biodiversity issues is a geographer and civil servant of land-use issues. None of the civil servants who work in charge of international biodiversity issues, including EU-cooperation, are biologists.


The 'Friends' are again accused in Lapland. The old conflict escalates. The importance of the new study on the genome of the LWfG (Wink et al. 2007) has not been evaluated at all. The Ministry has not asked any expert statement by the appropriate governmental body in charge of one, the Finnish Environment Centre (SYKE). The Finnish official Action Plan is dealing with the Norwegian birds &endash; not operating within territory of Finland and EU.

The Barnacle Goose has been declared an alien species in Lapland &endash; is this an attempt to put an end to the reintroduction of the LWfG into the nature, as the 'Friends' have used it as foster parents?


The LWfG group of WWF Finland&endash; an organ of amateurs

Funded by the Ministry of the Environment since 1983 and chaired by prof. Juha Merilä it has been an open forum for bird enthusiasts, amateurs who want to put voluntary efforts into nature conservation issues. This body acts as the scientific expert of the Ministry of the Environment.


  1. Power and responsibility, although belonging together, do not meet in the Finnish state administration of biodiversity issues.
  2. Caring of biodiversity should belong to biologists as well &endash; also and especially inside the administration.
  3. Several contributors consider themselves as experts on genetics in the framework of WWF conservation group.
  4. Media does not understand &endash; or does not care!


Satellite tracking

Lauri Kahanpää and Markku Kuitunen

Since 2004, there is cooperation between Jyväskylä University and the Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose.

The first joint project was catching Barnacle Geese in the Turku archipelago, and satellite tracking them. The idea was to find out whether they &endash; after release in Lapland - migrate East or West of the Baltic. A similar study was planned for birds caught in Helsinki. This knowledge is useful for selecting optimal foster parents for later releases of mixed LWfG &endash; Barnacle Goose families. The Helsinki birds are easier to catch and nest more regularly, but Turku lies far more to the West offering a more obvious choice of safe migration through Sweden.

Jyväskylä University offered help for purchasing the first satellite transmitters in 2004.

After three taggings, we still do not know the result. The tagged birds have not migrated successfully. One was predated by a Sea Eagle, another was possibly shot, and the third one was either predated by a red fox or killed by a hunter, who unfortunately was given a licence to kill in 2009.

No birds were caught in Helsinki, since confirming the relevant permits was delayed until their time was over. (See the editorial). When our new permit application is approved, research can continue.


The first trainee biologist at the breeding station

Lauri Kahanpää

In autumn 2009 the department of biological and environmental science accepted LWfG breeding as a suitable training for master degrees in biology. In April 2010, Pentti Alho got a helping hand to the breeding station. Soon (almost) M.Sc. Jane Koskimäki was separating breeding pairs into their individual cages. This is a difficult task, but important to guarantee the birds peaceful breeding conditions and the breeders control over their genealogy.

A biologist working with free animals must be capable to plan wisely for different situations and scenarios, but also to improvise quickly when needed, not to speak of the patience and awareness needed when waiting for the right moment of action. Having these skills, Jane Koskimäki was just the kind of person needed for assisting at the breeding. Like the genuine field biologist she is, she also effortlessly adapted to the rather primitive living conditions, having to live in our caravan for more than a month. We have every reason to thank her for a well done job and good companionship.

After such a successful first season, we look for-ward to welcoming the next trainee biologist in 2011.

Working with the birds one must be careful &endash; every time!



Welcome guests visited Hämeenkoski

Lauri Kahanpää and Pentti Alho

In July 2010 two friends from many conference meetings, Christine Kowallik (Biologiche Station Westliches Ruhrgebiet) and Kees Koffijberg (SOVON Vogelonderzoek Nederland) visited us at the breeding station in Hämeenkoski. Both are well known goose experts. Kees Koffijberg is an author of "Koffijberg K., Cottaar F. & van der Jeugd H. 2005. Pleisterplaatsen van Dwergganzen Anser erythropus in Nederland. SOVON-informatierapport 2005/06. SOVON Vogelonderzoek Nederland, Beek-Ubbergen", the English summary of which was published in the Bulletin (Finnish - 2006 - No 1). He has also written the Action Plan for protection of the Corncrake (Crex crex) in The Netherlands

The German-Dutch goose experts Christine Kowallik and Kees Koffijberg visited us in July.

The Swedish reintroduced LWfG over winter in the Netherlands. The Netherlands also has one of the World's highest density of ornithologists. When the Dutch Bird Atlas was compiled they were able to print separate maps for each month &endash; and use smaller squares. Obviously, also the LWfG are well observed there. But counting them still isn't an easy task, since distances are relatively small and the same birds may have been counted at different sites on the same day.

The wintering sites of all LWfG in the Netherlands stand under strict protection.

Temperature, humidity, turning the eggs &endash; Pentti Alho showing how the incubator iss handled professionally.


The Barnacle Goose - an alien species?

Our chairman has above written about some of the many obstacles laid in the way for reintroducing the Lesser White-fronted goose in Finland. The most recent dirty trick is the idea to declare the foster parent birds an "invasive alien species in Lapland".

The Giant Hogweed and the Colorado Potato Beetle are well known harmful alien species in Finland. But how about the harmfulness of the White-tailed Deer? And how harmful is the Signal Crayfish? Is the Noble crayfish an alien species too? How about our two species of Beaver &endash; the original went extinct and was reintroduced both from Canada and Europe. And what should we say of the Wild Forest Reindeer, extinct but reappeared from behind what then was the "iron curtain". And more: the Cormorant, the Canada Goose, the Bar-headed Goose, the Barnacle Goose, the Bearded Reedling, the Budgerigar, the Rabbit, the American Mink, The Cat, a Lesser White-fronted Goose breeding in the Helsinki Archipelago? Questions of this kind seem to be meaningless as long as there is no consensus on what we really mean by "alien species" and distinguish between invasive, harmful, and other alien species. And what are the "non-native species" mentioned in EU legislation?

Ultimately, not even these definitions are of importance. Important are the facts which are expressed using this kind of vocabulary. We must decide how to view each species, and &endash; finally &endash; each individual at each site. And it would be interesting to know, how they are looked upon in Finland, in other countries and internationally.

The following comments are not of the formal kind &endash; rather something I just picked up in the Net for discussion. Have fun!

An alien species (vieraslaji) is defined as a species, originally not belonging to the ecosystem, which has overcome natural obstacles like an ocean or a mountain range by intentional or accidental assistance of humans.

Finland's environmental administration SYKE

The Barnacle Goose is an alien species.

Finland's environmental administration SYKE

Between the Arctic Ocean and Finnish Lapland, there exists a mountain massive so high, that no Barnacle Goose can fly over it.

A logician, believing in both SYKE announcements.

Between South Finland and Finnish Lapland, there exists a new mountain massive so high, that no Barnacle Goose can fly over it. Now we can arrange the Winter Olympics in Finland, since all alpine events can &endash; at last &endash; be arranged in the domestic massive.

A sports fan, believing in both SYKE announcements and remembering there is no ocean between South Finland and Lapland

An alien species (vieraslaji) is defined as a species, imported to an area by man, and incapable of expanding its range to the new area by its own. The Cormorant is no alien species. BirdLife appeals to the decision makers: Don't join the Cormorant Populists. Concentrate on genuinely important Baltic Sea matters instead.

BirdLife Finland.

The Cormorant and the Helsinki city rabbits are not equivalent. The rabbits do not belong to our original Nature, and they are here as an import by man. The Cormorant, on the other hand, has returned by itself to an area, where it was earlier extinguished by man.

Lauri Hänninen BirdLife Finland.

The Canada Goose is the only alien Branta species in Norway.

Official Norwegian list of alien bird species.

Alien species = not welcome non-native species = harmful, invasive alien species to be removed or controlled under EU legislation.

Newcomer species = recently arrived, ecologically neutral = possible later prey for hunters, therefore listed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

These categories are poorly distinguished by the general public. How about SYKE?

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry = riistaweb seems to consider only the breeding range, not that the Cormorant and the Barnacle Goose always have migrated through our country and are no newcomers or non-natives at all in our fauna.

Source: .

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity demands that each country should set up a strategy and action plan on alien species. In Finland, the strategy for 2006-2016 will be set up in 2007-2010. The responsible ministries are the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (main responsibility), the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Communications


I just noticed that the Barnacle Goose has appeared as an example of an alien species on the Ministry's web page I discussed this with Mr. Veistola from Luonnonsuojeluliitto (= The Finnish Union for Conservation of Nature. Veistola is an academic historian) who was sitting in the committee in question. He was very evasive, but pointed to the Lesser White-fronts. As an original Eurasian species which forever has migrated through Finland, the Barnacle Goose can under no circumstances belong to that category. Will the Emperor's Clothes fall at last? The aim of the EU is to eradicate from nature invasive alien species. Those belong to other geographical areas, and are typically out competing domestic species.


Hey, Bureau-Karateka, could You take contact to this Mr. Harry Helmisaari (who is the contact person on that net page) and begin to argument with him and ask for written explanations. Both the intellectual and the non-intellectual dishonesty practised by the Ministry must be revealed to the public.

The question also arises, will the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry take part in the eradication campaign, when all the species imported by hunters will be killed to the last individual. You could also suggest, that Mr. Helmisaari could swap the Barnacle Goose and the Bar-headed Goose on the list.

Friend of Bureau-Karatekas

Hey! This year, only two Bar-headed Geese and two hybrids were moulting at the lake. The hybrids are probably the same birds which have returned to the place already in nine years, and they behave interestingly. For example this year they first appeared on May 21 in Kemijärvi, Finnish Lapland, and June 6 they were at Patoniva, Utsjoki, Lapland. Then again July 1 and August 13 in Kemijärvi! One of the pure Bar-heads was a young bird from last year's breeding. The same gosling missed migration last year, since it had lost many pinions. (Maybe they had frozen to the earth in some of the first frost nights.) So we took the bird to Ranua Zoo, and by the end of May I released the bird back on the spill water lake. By the end of June other Bar-headed Geese were repeatedly seen there, among them one ringed by me the previous year, with its partner, and a flock of 11 unringed birds, which however did not stay there. In early July at last, the moulting couple (and the hybrids) joined the single bird, and they stayed there the rest of the summer On August 12-13 they were already foraging in the centre of Kemijärvi town on the lawn of the boat harbour from where they together left for migration… Hope to find out some day, to where! (The 15 Bar-heads carry number rings as a memory of their visits to Kemijärvi, so they will probably be heard of.. ;-)

Pirkka (=the person, who disclosed our "alien" geese to their enemies.)

In the last issue of Linnut -vuosikirja 2009 [By BirdLife Finland] there are articles of both the Lesser White-fronted and the Barnacle Goose. The Swedish Lessers are not mentioned at all. In the Barnacle story there is no mention of "alien species" &endash; on the contrary, their recent expansion in Europe is well clarified including the appearance of new populations in the Netherlands, the Baltic, Finnish inland lakes and the shores of the Arctic Ocean. In the light of this article, SYKE's calling it an alien species smells even more like commissioned work.


Already publishing the fact, that the Commission has taken up the issue of the Finnish Environment Administration's interpretation of the Barnacle Goose as an alien species, is ill for the credibility of the Administration.


The Society

Annual meetings 2009 and 2010

Annual general meetings were held on April 8.2009 and June 2.2010, both at the chairman's summer home in Tykölä, Valkeakoski. Both times the weather was beautiful and we were served delicate food. Sufficiently many active members were present - and our invited guest Pentti Alho. Both times all formalities went as usual: The reports of activities and the financial reports 2008 and 2009 were accepted, and the board was discharged from liability. The activity- and financial plan for the coming years were accepted.

The membership fee was 40 euros for 2009 and 50 for 2010, both equivalent to 8 hours work. Foreigners were asked to pay 10 euros extra for postage. Institutional members paid 100 euros.

The Society's finances build on membership fees, donations from private persons and, above all, on volunteers' work. Goose Breeder Pentti Alho is the person, who has carried the main burden under all the 12 years since the reintroduction project was privatised. Two years more have gone without him being paid properly for the work done.

The board was not renewed, neither in 2009 nor in 2010. The following were re-elected:


Activities 2008 - 2010

2008 was our tenth year of activity, and 2010 already the twelfth:

During all the 12 years, our aims and activities have been essentially the same: keeping the Finnish LWfG population alive and well, and doing our best to reintroduce the LWfG as a breeding bird in Finnish Lapland. Also the worst obstacles have been annoyingly constant: Pentti Alho has worked year after year without enjoying proper payment or days off. Other volunteer work is only available when needed for special purposes like large scale cleaning and reconstruction operation or the tiresome non-stop goose releasing drives to Lapland, more than 1000 km North from Hämeenkoski.


A few new members were welcomed to join the Society, both Finns and Foreigners. But there is room for much more. We still have not started the long planned recruiting campaign, mentioned in the activity plans for 2008-2010. Before the next meeting some time in spring 2011, there still is time to begin.

Work done

In 2008 and 2009, the breeding farm buildings were further improved (see below), but since 2010, the emphasis is on breeding and paper work &endash; unfortunately also including work on the judicial acts.

The Society's long run co-operation agreement with the Finnish government, represented by the Regional Environment Centre of Häme ended on December 31.2008. According to this agreement, the Society was obliged to breed LWfG in some buildings originally built by the Regional Environment Centre. Today, most buildings are of newer origin, and all belong to the Society or to Pentti Alho personally and continue to be used for the same purpose. Almost 700 m^2 are roofed, 100 m^2 heated, and 6000 m^2 cages with wire roofs. To give an impression of the size of the station, we mention, there are at least 60 doors and one kilometre of water piping dug under the ground frost. All buildings have been improved and overhauled regularly. The machine park includes an AVANT 220 special tractor and a Solifer Arctic 420 caravan which can house 4 people in any weather.

Some of the maintenance work done2009-2010

Daily taking care of the birds is the main work. In addition to feeding and constant control, much extra work is needed during breeding in spring and early summer. In winter, ice and snow cause extra labour.

During April 2010, Pentti Alho had a trainee biologist from the University of Jyväskylä to assist with the breeding.

The Birds

In recent years, no wild birds were accepted for treatment in our bird hospital. The reason for this is the still valid bird flu alarm.

No Lesser White-fronted Geese were imported to the breeding station, and the only exports were the freeing of 3 families, totally 9 goslings, in Lapland. Mortality has been normal - with the exception of a drowning accident in spring 2010, and the releases. The experiment to cut pinions was abandoned after several drownings. No epidemics were suspected. After the 2005 catastrophe when 40 % of our stock were lost, production has not yet reached the original level.

No Barnacle Geese have been caught in Finland since our licence went obsolete, and we are slowly running out of suitable foster parent birds. In 2010, we had no pair breeding simultaneously with the LWfG, so there unfortunately was no family to be released in Lapland &endash; in spite of normal (2008 and 2009) or at least acceptable (2010) breeding results at the Station. Import of both Barnacle Geese and LWfG is becoming urgently needed. We hope, AEWA will soon formally recommend our birds, or at least the Russian origin LWfG which have come via the former GDR to Germany for reintroduction purposes.

The satellite transmitter from 2009's release was recovered in Lapland and will be sent to the manufacturer for control. Our project to design a cheaper telephone-network based localization system is still unfinished.

Publications, Action Plans and PR

In 2008, the respected ornithological journal ''die Vogelwelt'' published a special issue on Geese. It included two full size peer-reviewed scientific papers by us, one a joint paper on 10 years of LWfG monitoring in Kazakhstan, the other on the future of the LWfG in Europe.

In 2008 the Editor-In-Chief of Finland's largest nature magazine, Suomen Luonto ("Nature of Finland"), Mr. Jorma Laurila, kindly promised to publish a paper on Lesser White-fronted Geese in order to promote reconciliation, cooperation and joint efforts to reintroduce the species on Finland. Later on, a friendly free lancer reporter, Mr. Markku Lappalainen, visited us at the Goose Farm photographing the birds and interviewing us. We did not suspect anything until he sent us a draft of his story, which contained all the prejudices spread by the enemies of the reintroduction program. We corrected his misunderstandings, misinterpretations and right out false citations, but that did not help. The story was published essentially unaltered in Suomen Luonto and is still downloadable at Later it turned out that Mr. Lappalainen was not at all interested in reconciliation but himself one of the persons, who in 2005 had appealed to the Administrative Court against our permit to catch Barnacle Geese for scientific purposes. Our public complaint to the Editor in Chief was answered by a short note, where he defined Mr. Lapplainen as suitable and neutral. (Your opinion can be sent to )

Later in 2009, a reporter of the Finnish broadcasting company YLE made an objective program. A few newspaper articles were published in Lapland in protest against the 2009 temporal licence to kill or catch the reintroduced birds.

The Society has repeatedly informed the Ministry of the Environment of the short-comings in the process of preparing their national protection plan and the serious shortcomings in the plan draft itself. In 2008 we published a corrected "Plan to Restore the Favourable Conservation Status of the Lesser White-fronted Goose in Finland" in Finnish and 2009 a second edition in English. These were printed in totally 500 copies and circulated to the Ministry and to domestic and international stakeholders. In particular, the chairman and secretary distributed 100 copies of the Plan at the 12. meeting of the Goose Specialist Group of Wetlands International in Höllviken, Sweden during the period 9 - 13 October 2009.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Society published annually 4 issues of the Bulletin, one of them in English each year &endash; both paper and electronic versions. Number 1/2008 is our Protection Plan in Finnish and number 1/2009 is the improved edition in English.

2009-2010 the Society published an A4-size colourful brochure for PR purposes, both in Finnish and English.

To promote reintroduction of the Lesser White-fronted Goose in Finland, the Society has written several letters with suggestions or complaints directly to nature conservation authorities in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the European Union.

The Society has founded a Face book site but it is still under construction. The standard home page also needs another update.

Permissions and agreements

All the Society's formal obligations and agreements have expired, in particular the obligation(!) to breed Lesser White-fronted Geese, the corresponding agreement with goose breeder Pentti Alho and the permissions to catch Lesser White-fronted Geese.


The Society still got most of our income from membership fees and private donations including building material and fodder. About EUR 2000-3000 were annually spent on energy and fodder. Pentti Alho, again, did not bill for the invaluable work he is doing. Therefore, the Society now is formally, but not morally, free of debt.

Photo and -shopping Lauri Kahanpää


Contact information

<> Technical update done Jan 6 2011