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2002 - No. 1

february 2002

Other issues:


In this issue:

Editor's note: A Year of Activity

(Lauri Kahanpää)

This bulletin tries to give an impression of what The Lesser White-fronted Geese and their s Friends have done and experienced during our third year of activity. Quite a lot has happened. This was a year of much work and success. More members have joined the Society, our participation in two Conferences has brought us international recognition and support, and our geese have been genetically tested. The Friends of the LWfG and RGG - the Goose and Swan Study Group of Eastern Europe and North Asia - support each other, and also Wetlands International has declared their willingness to cooperate with us. The farm buildings are still better, and we have built a hall for taking care of injured waterfowl. The economy of the society is in some balance at last, and we are able to pay normally for the services of the farm keeper.

How about the Geese themselves? On the farm, life goes on as usual, but - unfortunately word by word - the same is true with respect to other LWfG in the world as well: both in Norway and in Russia their decline is continuing, and the only pair of captive LWfG that was directly taken from nature lost their lives in an accident. The wintering grounds of the main population are still politically out of balance, and hunting continues as never before. Despite of these facts, we still have to negotiate for protection plans. The Russian speaking Friends are in a key position here.

Our own position is improving, and we have now the opportunity to support some of those, who are less fortunate. We have adopted a re-stocking project of the Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) in Kyrgyzstan as a partner. Modest money amounts can have a big effect in a country where the dollar is valuable.

All those who have supported us by working on the farm or paying our expenses deserve more gratitude than I am able to express in English. Our activities have been made possible by old and new friends, who have donated building materials, food, direct financial support etc. We are grateful to all our sponsors, both public and private!


Lesser White-fronts in Northern Europe


A wild Lesser White-front observed on Lake Vesijärvi

(Pentti Alho)

A single LWfG was observed on Lake Vesijärvi near Lahtri , southern Finland , in July 2001. The bird stayed for more than a month together with a flock of Canada Geese. When I vas there myself, the bird behaved much like the Canadians, so I could make a foto with a 300 mm lense. Later, color rings could be identified. It seems, this individual belongs yto the Swedish population. Another single LWfG has been observed in Stockholm.

These observations indicate that the Swedish birds are fit to survive even in these southern habitats. But I do not believe, they will be able to multiply so far off thir natural Northern biotopes.


Varangerfjord (Norway) empty for the first time

(WWW-news picked up and sumarized by Lauri Kahanpää)

A few years ago, WWF succeeded in finding out that the spring migrating individuals seen near Oulu in Finland belong to the Norwegian population. The Finnish LWfG group were able to observe the same bird first in Matsalu (Estonia), later near Oulu. Still later the Norwegian team observed the same bird at Porsanger fjord.

The Norwegian LWfG population has shrunk 5 percent annually in recent years. Spring 2001 gave an all time minimum at Oulu, under 20 birds. The WWF: has been able to identify individuals by their belly stripes on photographs, so the numbers are reliable.

Norway's last LWfG migrate to SE Europe. Some have been observed on the Evros delta in eastern Greece, where they are targets for hunters. Also, the route through Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia or Bulgaria is hopelessly dangerous.

In Norway, LWfG can be observed at Porsanger fjord, and on the island Skjåholmen in Varanger fjord, where also the last Finnish natural LWfG were observed every august. They died out in 1995. The last family of Finnish LWfG was shot in Kazakhstan carrying satellite transmitters. In august 2001, Skjåholmen was empty for the first time; the Finnish WWF team saw no LWfG during their two weeks expedition to there. Unaided, the original European Lesser White-fronted goose will face the fate of the dinosaurs.



LWfG in the Kola Peninsula area

(WWF; WWW-bulletin 5.7.2001, English summary Lauri Kahanpää)

Finnish conservation authorities and the WWF organized a two weeks Polar Fox and LWfG expedition to areas in northern Kola, near lake Enozero. Part of the study area belongs to Tundra Nature Reserve. Only four LWfG were observed, one breeding pair and two single birds. This confirms the general belief of the existence of a regular, weak - yet stronger than in Norway - population in Kola. Large numbers of Anser fabalis rossicus were seen.

Background: Anser erythropus is globally threatened with the total number down at less than a fifth of the former 100 000. In Fennoscandia, only 30-50 pairs remain. Excessive hunting in winter and during migration iin SE directions is the main problem. This opinion is confirmed by the fact that the Anser fabalis rossicus do well in Kola - they migrate SW where hunting pressure is much smaller.



Comparison of Two LWfG Re-introduction Projects

(Pentti Alho and Erkki Kellomäki)

Lambart von Essen began re-introducing Lesser White-fronted Geese to Sweden in 1981. His project has had some success, while the simultaneous Finnish project failed. Why? What can we learn from comparing these? Learning from experience is important for many reasons - one of them the economical reason: The total costs for an LWfGosling rise as high as 1000$. Now - 20 years after the start of the projects - it is time to sum up our cumulative experience, so let us compare:

Success and Failure

During 2 decades, about 350 LWfG have been set free in Sweden's Svaipa arctic mountins (photos) at the Polar Circle. These birds have started to breed, and their population is slowly but steadily rising. About 30 nests have been detected, but there might be more, since in recent years, the breeding area has become larger, and not even groups of experienced ornithologists are able to find the birds in the hundreads of unihabited square miles that we are talking about. The number of LWfG in Sweden is easier estimated during migration and in winter (See the story by Bertus de Lange). The current number is somewhere around 70-80 individuals, and there is a trend upward in spite of the temporay interruption in the re-introductions.

In Finland, WWF started a similar project eight years later. Since 1989, more than 150 LWfGoslings have been released in Finnish Lapland, but not a single breeding of these birds has been recorded. The last known breeding of original LWfG was in 1995.

The Methods

In Sweden, fertilized LWfG eggs were taken away from their natural parents and moved into nets of free-living Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis). Later, the freshly hatched goslings were caught together with their foster parents, and taken to the nearby bird farm. The goslings were imprintied on the Barnacle Geese.

In Finland, the LWfG farm birds were allowed to multiply without human interference. The goslings werte imprinted on their natural parents. There were no other major differences between breeding conditions in Sweden and Finland.

In Sweden, the Barnacle Geese parents, together with their LWfG goslings, were transported to the Arctic by car and helicopter. This was done, when the goslings were 6 to 7 weeks old, just learning to fly and to escape predators.

In Finland, the LWfG families - in many cases only the female with the goslings - were moved to Lapland by car and plane when the goslings were only 1-3 weeks of age. In 1997, a released family was carefully observed in their first fourtnight in freedom. During this time, a red fox killed the female, and all the goslings.

How about migration and wintering?

In fall migration of the Sweduish geese was easy to observe, since the probable staging places were known in advance. The Barnacle parents prefere riverside meadows close to human settlement in the Bothnic Gulf region. Some even found their way to park lawns in the town of Hudiksval. During their migration round trip, the survival rate of the LWfG goslings was an impressive 80 per cent and higher.

In Finland, the released birds were observed for some time near the release site. Later, they disappeared, until some were seen in various countries in winter. Some travelled to the south-east like their wild relatives, but most observations come from countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, the British Islands, even Spain. Most probably these birds have joined flocks of migrating Anser fabalis.

The Swedish LWfG migrate mainly to the Netherlands, where hunting geese has been illegal for ten years. This is the main reason for their very high survival rate. There exist rather complete data of their spring migration also, since these birds seem to use the same staging grounds both in autumn and in spring. Of the Finnish project LWfG only one individual has been observed in spring in Inari, Finnish Lapland. No breedings are known.

Conclusion: The success of the Swedish Project is due to the following factors:

  1. The Swedish goslings were able to fly when released. Unlike the younger Finnish goslings, they could escape predators.
  2. The Barnacle Geese foster parents are slightly largera and very much more aggressive than LWfG. They were able to defend the goslings.
  3. In comparison to a single female, both parents together have better chances to defend the goslings.
  4. The Barnacle Geese foster parents were able to guide their flock to safe wintering grounds. Many of them had travelled the route several times before. In contgrast, the Finnish LWfG parents had lived all their lives on the farm and had no migrating experience.
  5. The Swedish re-stocking area is a large bird sanctuary with relatively few reindeer and other human activity, whereas in Finland fall hunting is legal, and reindeer are overly abundant in Finnish Lapland, destroying the lush ground vegetation which should offer food and shelter for the geese.


Winter at Öster-Malma


News around Eurasia


Wintering LWfG in the Netherlands

(Bertus de Lange)

Small numbers of wintering LWfG have always been observed in the Western Europe. Their number has been steadily growing since the Swedish Project was started in 1981. "Lambarts" birds are known to winter mainly in the Neherlands, but there are observations of them in Belgium as well. Birds originating from our farm in Hämeenkoski have during the first re-introduction trial been seen in Denmark, the Netherlands, England, and Spain.

Here are some observations in the Netherlands this year


LWfG Monitoring in Kazakhstan in Autumn 2001

(Sergey Yerokhov)

Dr. Sergey Yerokhov and his team, experts from the Institute of Zoology, Ministry of Education and Science, Kazakhstan have made their annual goose monitoring trip to Kostanai Region, North-west Kazakhstan. Field studies were realized 28 Sep to 12 Oct 2001.

In summary, the following conclusions can be made:

1. Autumn migration of LWFG and other geese in Kostanai region in 2001 was relevant to average migration timing for many years. At the same time the highest number of geese stopping in lakes has moved to earlier time by 8-10 days in average for the surveyed sites. Geese did not make large lasting gatherings at the examined lakes due to unfavorable conditions. They left the site after short stopovers.

2. Recorded LWFG (3696 birds) were two times exceeding the number in the same lakes reported in the previous year. Assuming that young birds were predominant among registered geese we can think of the growth tendency of the observed population migrating through Kostanai region.

3. Concentration of LWFG in the lakes without any efficient protection (Batpakkol, Bozshakol) can be an additional factor of decreasing number influenced by hunting. Such high concentration sites need to be identified in a prompt manner and efficient protection needs to be established.

4. Among possible factors influencing the number reduce of LWFG, parasitic diseases have to be taken in account. To those refer infection of Microfilaria hook-worn and toxic influence of heavy metals such as Pb, Cd, Zn, Cu found in large feathers. However the study of such issues need to be continued in a larger scale.


"Piskulka" News from the Polar Urals in 2001

(Vladimir Morozov, Leader of the Expedition Team)

In 2001 a team of the Goose and Swan Study Group of Eastern Europe and North Asia (RGG) carried out an expedition to the Polar Urals (67 02' - 68 28' N; 63 55' - 65 10' E) in Russia.

The Region is known as a stronghold of the Piskulka alias the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) in the western part of Russia. The Region has been investigated earlier in 1982-1993 and 1999-2000 by Russian scientists. The population of the LWfG has come down in the last decades, both in numbers and in distribution, but it is still productive.

The Expedition was sponsored by the Dutch Embassy in Moscow. The season 2001 was successful for both the LWfG and Expedition Team. Numbers of the LWfG were higher than in 1999 and 2000 in spite of not so good enviromental conditions. In 2001 we counted more than 100 individuals (adults plus juveniles) despite we could not check all the key sites within the study area. We caught 28 Lesser White-fronted Geese. 7 from them were adults. All adult geese were marked with red color neck-bands with white letters. The wintering area of the LWfG from the Polar Urals is still to some extent uncertain. Ringing recoveries have been registered from the Manych valley (Krasnodar and Stavropol Regions). We hope that new records will be received due to these banded geese.


The Bar-headed Goose in Kyrgyzstan

(Alexander Yakovlev) (Link to Home Page of Bar-headed Goose Project)

During the decade 1991 - 2000, the author counted Bar-headed Geese (Anser indicus) in Kyrgyzstan. A comparison with studies made in the fifties and eighties reveals the fact that less than one tenth of the population survive today - too few to guarantee natural recovery. These results are confirmed by censuses of wintering Bar-headed Geese in China, India and Pakistan.

1970 the government of Kyrgyzstan introduced protection measures including a re-stocking project. The modest success of these measures proves that there is no way to solve this international problem inside the borders of one country only. We are fighting for the survival of a species on a global level!

The international scientific and nature conservation community must become aware of these facts immediately. A strategy of action must be made up in order to start strong multi-national efforts to revive the bar-headed Goose in its old habitats.

The Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose have donated a telescope (Kowa) to the Kyrgyz Project. Also, at the Roosta conference we collected USD 1000, enough to support the project for one year. Co-operation will continue. If You feel interested, just write to us.

Foto A. Yakovlev



Conferences 2001


The 1st Conference of the Goose and Swan Study Group of Eastern Europe and North Asia (RGG) Moscow, January 25ñ27, 2001

(Lauri Kahanpää)


The 1st Conference of Goose and Swan Study Group of Eastern Europe and North Asia ´Studying and conservation of Anseriforms of Eastern Europe and North Asiaª was held at the Biological Faculty of the Moscow State University, Moscow, on January 25ñ27, 2001.

The Goose and Swan Study Group of Eastern Europe and North Asia (RGG) follows the traditions of the meetings devoted to the studies of waterfowl initiated by Prof. Yu. A. Isakov and held in the 1960-1970:s. The conference contributed to consolidation of the scientists, conservationists, hunters and birdwatchers.

The Conference

One hundread talks contain more information than one can absorb, in particular with my command of the Russian language. (Thank you, Natalia Ripatti, for interpreting many of the talks, including my own!) Most of the time was spent listening to the talks and makinng aquainancies inside the Stalin-style skyscraper that is Moscow University. Moscow in january is quite an experience, but the excursien to the zoo was very nice and informing anyway. (Bad news: the only known pair of "fresh from nature" LWfG:s in the world had recently been killed by a dog.) I had the opportunity to stay overnight in a luxuriuos apartment next to the wolves. Listening to their howling in the morning was great. My fullest gratitude goes to the organizers for giving me this privilege.

The Talks

Many nice talks were given. (Some titles and other information are here). Most talks will be published in a special issue of the "Cazarca", the journal of the RGG - ask the organizers to send you a copy. What was most important to me, of course was the workshop Lesser White-fronted Goose: current status and international research and conservation programmes (Conveners: V.V. Morozov, E. Kellomaki). Here V.V. Morozov presented a joint survey paper with E.E. Syroechkovski Jr. on the "Problems of conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Geese in their nesting habitats". Their maps showing the shrinking of their habitats were impressive and alarming. Afterwards, prof. Morozov gave to me an important present: a few freshly collected feathers of Siberian LWfG to be used in our compartive genome tests.

My own talk - a description of the Fenno-scandian situaation and a prediction of its future - turned out to be a success. It was immediately well recieved, and in the closing talk of the conference our Society was recommended as a partner for all "friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose" in the world. Can you ask for more!

LWfG genetics

During the Moscow meeting the Friends of the LWfG and a laboratory of the Russian Academy of Science agreed upon a study of the genetic status of our farm geese in comparison to wild LWfG and to White-fronted Geese. (Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, the latter using RAPD-PCR-methods.). At last we have also molecular knowledge on the suitability of our birds for introduction to Nature. Results wil be published inour next Bulletin (2002 - No 2).


Farms and Zoos


Lesser White-fronts in Zoos World Wide

(Andrei V. Kotkin)

Summary: (Lauri Kahanpää)

Mr. Andrei V. Kotkin is a journalist and an ornithologist, who has collected data of captive waterfowl. He has not just studied the available litertature and surfed the internet, but has himself visited counltess zoos on his annual long bicycle tours though Europe. We publish some highlights of his talk and of discussions with him at the RGG Conference in Moscow.

There seem to be less than 60 LWfG in the oficial zoos of the world. This can be compared with the 100 individuals at our farm, and a similar number in Öster-Malma. In addition, there are birds at private parks and in the hands of commercial bird breeders.

Some results (Andrei V. Kotkin)

I have collected data on zoo waterfowl from the last 30 years. The numbers in official lists fluctuate surprisingly much from year to year, giving an impression of gaps in the data collection. This impression is confirmed by my direct observations, in particular some small zoos or even obscure bird-parks hold LWfG without writing annual reports. But one can compare different years or decades, and there is a clear trend downwards in the number of recorded captive LWfG: In the seventies, an annual average of 9.3 zoos were reported to hold LWfG, inthe next decade the number was almnost the same, 10,1. But in the nineties no more than an average of 6,5 zoos reported LWfG.

The relative reproduction speed of zoo birds has constantly stayed at the average of three to four young geese / zoo and year. These statistics hide the yield of an average of 50 gosligs in each of the best three consecutive years in the eighties and only 6 (six!) in 1996.

The LWfG is not a very spectsacular zoo bird, and it seems to me, zoos must - as they become more and more dependent of their enrtance fees - concentrate on animals that have a stronger appeal to the public. But we should not forget the value of zoos as gene banks of endangered species.


Project "Päijät-Hämeen lintuhoitolat ja luontomatkailu 2001-2004"

(Lauri Kahanpää)

The Friends participate in the EU-funded Project "Päijät-Hämeen lintuhoitolat ja luontomatkailu". The Project aims at creating a system and network for taking care of injured animals - in our case mainly waterfowl. For this purpose, we are using and re-constructing some buildings on the farm area in Hämeenkoski. Rising LWfG is part of the Project. Our main Project Partner is the Bird Zoo in Heinola; others are veterinary, health, nature conservationist, and hunter's organizations:

  • City of Heinola
  • Friends of the LWfG
  • Hämeenkoski bird farm
  • Keski-Hämeen ympäristöyhdistys
  • Suomen Metsästäjäliitto (Finnish Hunters)
  • Hämeenlinnan seudun kansanterveystyön kuntayhtymän Ympäristöosasto
  • Hämeen Ympäristökeskus


The Bird Park in Heinola

(Pekka Javanainen)

Half a century ago, Anthony Bosley - by then a Heinola city employee - began to take care of abandoned birds, mainly parrots. The news spread, more and more birds, now also wild ones, were brought to him, until there was absolutely no motre room in his private home. Fortunately, the city of Heinola realized the touristic value of the collection of living birds, and built a Bird Park and Zoo not far from the main bus station. In the following years, The Zoo was enlargened in several steps; the latest buildings were opened for the public in 1999. Anthony himself still visits the Zoo almost daily.

Today, birds are sent to Heinola from all around Finland. After sufficient treatment and rest, most of them are set free again. The Bird Park and Zoo also offers nature conservation information to its visitors. By tradition, entrance is free, and the city of Heinola (with governmental and EU support) covers the expenses of the Park and Zoo. Evidently, this is also financially wise for the city, since the birds form a main touristic attraction with more than 100 000 visitors a year, three times the number of people living in Heinola.


Construction work at the farm in 2001

(Pentti Alho and Lauri Kahanpää)

Motto: "Some day we will build a SAUNA. After all: This is FINLAND"

The LWfG farm itself was in relatively good shape already by the beginning of 2001. Therefore - and for reasons explained below - the Friends built only one more swimming basin and repaired minor faults, like tihgtening the fences of the breeding boxes and setting up tarpaulins to prevent the geese from flying into the roof net. Repairing the LWfG side will continue in 2002 and 2003.

Mainly, we concentrated on building up the Bird Hospital area. An old 100 m2 hall was totally renewed for this purpose: A new roof construction was built to make the hall resistant to snow, water and heat. A concrete floor with electrical heating and a swimming pool was casted, electricity and piping were installed and now we are building in a small veterinary room and boxes for the birds.

To achieve all this, more than 300 volunteer hours by the members were needed. (Actually, even more volunteering was done by farm keeper Pentti Alho himself. This remark is added by a very grateful LK without asking PA). The Project "Päijät-Hämeen lintuhoitolat ja luontomatkailu 2001-2004" carried the main financial burden for these constructions, supported by the EU and the Finnish Government, incarnated as Häme Regional Environmental Centre, which also sent Mr. Petri Uronen from its staff to work for the Project one day a week. (Thank You Petri!)

So where do we stand now? At the beginning of 2002, the newbuildings are almost finished. In 2002, we must improve the living conditions of the LWfG, who have somewhat suffered from having to live in and near a construction site. (Last year's yield ov new geese was negative!) The area must be cleaned and covered with fresh, smooth sand to protect the sensitive feet of the geese. A rat proof food storage and a sewage cleaning system are on their way. Despite of these demands - compared to last year's strain - 2002 promises to give better value for a more acceptable input of money and labour.

For a history of the constructions, see also the farm page.


The Society


Plans for 2002

(Lauri Kahanpää)

The Farm in Hämeenkoski, Breeding, Re-stocking and Protecting the LWfG

The Society will continue breeding LWfG in Hämeenkoski, rising funds and volunteering at the farm. The gene research project at the Russian Academy of Science will be completed in order to prepare for re-stocking. Co-operation with the Swedish project, the Helsinki Zoo, and other partners will continue. The Society aims at improving the conservation status of the LWfG in countries like Russia and China in cooperation with local authorities, researchers and conservationists. We continue our contacts to RGG, Wetlands International and IWWA.

The injured Birds Project

The hospital for injured birds will move to the new facilities. The public will be informed on how to take care of injured animals, in particular waterfowl. Special editions of the rules will be distributed to hunters and to children. Information on the LWfG and on our partner, the Heinola Birds Zoo, will be included. 200 hours of volunteer work will be spent on this project.

The Exhibition

A poster exhibition on the LWfG and on taking care of injured animals will be produced for the Helsinki and Heinola Zoos and for schools as well as later use at the Science Museum of Jyväskylä University.


Sponsors 2001 - 2002

Korkeasaaren ystävät ry

Lämpöura Ky Pentti Tenhunen

Markprint Oy

Pirkanmaan lintutieteellinen yhdistys ry.

Raatikuva Ky Heikki Löflund

Rosenlew puutarhakalvot

Suomen Terästekniikka Oy


Contact information

mail: PO-Box 517 / FIN 13111 Hämeenlinna
e-mail: <>
chairman: fil. dr. Lauri Kahanpää
tel: (358)14-2602716 and (358)14-253364 (Finland=358)
fax: (358)14-2602701
direct to farm: tel/fax 03 7654 727, gsm 050 3441 755
membership fees:
foreign members USD 50 or 50 EUR per annum

<> published in february 2002, updated Apr 15.2004