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In spring 2003 no more than 10 Lesser White-fronted Geese were observed at their traditional staging site near Oulu, Finland. Last year there were 16, the year before 19. In spite of the excellent breeding summer 2002 the decline of the Norwegian remnant population continues.
During spring and summer our society has been busy preparing for re-starting re-introductions. Also, preparing applications for funding and spreading information to both decision makers and to the general public has taken lots of our time. At the farm, Pentti Alho expected a poor breeding year, since the winter had been so very severe. As a result of his efforts we can enjoy the survival of 32 goslings. None of them have been released, but there is still room on the farm, since the number of Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) has been radically reduced, because it has become easy to find suitable foster parent birds elsewhere. In any case will Barnacle Geese be used as foster parents, and to test their migration behaviour, a family of them will soon be set free near the future release site in Lapland carrying a satellite radio transmitter.
We have participated at the RGG Goose Conference in Olonets, Russia. We have discussed cooperation with the Swedish and German Projects at an important meeting in Uppsala, Sweden. We have talked to politicians in the Parliament Building in Helsinki (on the day the government of Finland fell), and we have recieved visitors - both foreign and domestic - at the farm.
Maybe the most important meeting of all still was our own annual meeting in Hämeenlinna, where we decided to do the things which we are working on now. I welcome all members - both old and new (or should I say young?) at the farm.
Martti Soikkeli (Prof. emer. in zoology, Univ. Turku)
When the need for doing something to rescue the Leser White-fronted Goose became apparent in the 1960s, I was one of the ornithologists who had been following the situation for most of our lives. Nobody really had an idea of how to end the declining trend until - fifteen years later - Lambart von Essen was convinced of the main problem being high hunting pressure along the South-Eastern migration routes, and understood that it was both necessary and possible to shift the migration routes to safer areas in Western Europe.
Migration routes could be manipulated by putting LWfG eggs into nests of Barnacle Geese. Later on the Lesser White-fronted Goslings would migrate to the Netherlands in company of their foster parents. They learned a new route - and survived. Lambart's method really was a success and today "his" geese are healthily multiplying in Sweden. Last winter more than 70 of them were observed in Germany and the Netherlands. Simultaneously, the original population has died out both in Finland and Sweden, and only very few birds survive in Norway.
In Finland, WWF tried to re-introduce Lesser White-fronted Geese - without foster parents. The attempt failed and was interrupted. Soon after, also Swedish releases were temporarily interrupted, as signs of hybridisation with (greater) White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) were detected in the genome of some of the captive birds. At this stage WWF Finland abandoned the goose farms in Finland. (Not in Sweden !) Now the farms had to fight for survival on their own. Private and public sponsors have helped them to rescue the one third of the world'd captive population of Lesser White-fronts that are kept on Finnish farms. The Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose have taken samples of these birds and controlled their genetical and veterinary status. They support continued re-introductions and manipulating migration routes. Better life in the west than death in the east!
Today, WWF-Finland tries to support the remaining Norwegian population by investigating conditions along their Eastern migration routes -- and in the long run by improving them. The WWF group have discovered a previously unknown autumn staging site on the Kanin peninsula on the eastern route. They have counted Lesser White-fronted GFoose at spring staging sites near Oulu, Finland. In the 1980's annually almost a hundread were observed, including up to 34 young birds. The corresponding numbers for the last four years are 26 (-), 27 (-), 19 (-) and 16 (8). This year's preliminary information talks of some ten birds, although breeding was unusually succesful in 2002. (69 birds in autumn, thereof 34 juvenils). The Lesser White-fronted Goose is going extinct in Scandinavia!
On the international level, two groups of conservationists have emerged. In my opinion, these two must soon find a way to compromise. The re-introduction party (The "Friends of the LWfG", Russians, Germans and Swedes) like to try to rescue the Scandinavian population once the genetical suitability of the captive birds has been clarified. The other party (WWF Finland and the Norwegians) is up to now in opposition against re-introductions.
We two old LWfG-fans, Ilkka Koivisto and myself, do not understand why the (scientifically interesting, without doubt) miotochondrial genetics should be made such an impenetrable barrier against re-introduction programs. Minimal genetic differences evidently to have no effect on the appearence, behaviour of survival rate of these birds. In any case, the birds spend most of the year on migration and at their wintering sites. where any female may pick up some arbitrary male with Siberian or other "impure" genes to become father of our "purely Scandinavian" geese. Almost surely, there is a stedy gene flow between geographically distinct LWfG populations. This statement is supported by the absence of subspecies (The Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) has five!)
Somebody in Sweden once presented the extreme opinion, that all geese originating from Lambart von Essen's re-introduction program should be shot. Fortunately, this will not be done, and the captive birds are kept alive as well. Lambart von Essen himself once spoke the wise words: "These birds look like Lesser White-fronted Geese. They behave like Lesser White-fronted Geese, and they are perfectly adapted to arctic Sweden. Why should they not be Lesser White-fronted Geese!"
Hier ein Bericht von mir über mein Treffen mit Åke Andersson (Leiter des schwedischen Zwerggansprojektes) und Lauri Kahanpää in Uppsala am Dienstag, den 13.05.03.
Lauri hat mich in Skavsta abgeholt, und wir sind die etwa 150 km nach Uppsala gefahren und haben verschiedene Dinge besprochen. Eines davon war, dass die Finnen gerne noch in diesem Jahr Zwerggänse in Finnland mit der Lambart von Essen-Methode (Weißwangengans als Ersatzeltern) auswildern möchten. Die Folge wäre vermutlich die Eskalation der Situation in Finnland. Deshalb weden sie doch erst im nächsten Jahr damit beginnen, Zwerggänse auszuwildern. Als Ersatz wollen sie in diesem Jahr Weißwangengänse mit Satellitensendern versehen und so deren Zugroute in den Süden verfolgen, um herauszufinden, ob sie diese Tiere im nächsten Jahr als Ersatzeltern verwenden können.
Es gibt einen neuen Umweltminister in Finnland. Lauri versucht einen Termin bei diesem Minister zu bekommen. Wir, die Aktion Zwerggans, werden dabei sein. Wir werden uns dann sehr konkret über einen gemeinsamen LIFE-Antrag und damit über ein gemeinsames Zwerggans-UL-Projekt unterhalten.
Mit Åke gemeinsam haben wir uns zunächst das Gebiet Svaipa auf der Karte etwas genauer angesehen, in dem das schwedische Zwerggansprojekt die Gänse auswildert. Es liegt nicht in einem Nationalpark, aber in einem EU-FFH-Gebiet. Åke hat uns einige interessante Informationen zu diesem Gebiet gegeben. Ende Juni führen die Zwerggänse ihre Jungen, d.h. man kann sie immer wieder dabei beobachten. Wir könnten Åke und sein Projekt darin unterstützen, ihm weitere Daten über Zwerggänse, aber auch andere im weiteren Gebiet vorkommende Arten zu liefern. Wen es interessiert) nach Swaipa zu fuss (15 km) zu ehen, möge sich bitte melden.
Åke hat uns sodann über Herrn Tegelström informiert, den schwedischen Genetiker. Wir müssen ja sicherstellen, dass die richtige Methode zur Verwendung kommt, wenn wir Zwerggänse aus Zuchten testen lassen, damit z.B. das schwedische NEPA diese auch anerkennt. Wir werden versuchen eine Arbeitsgruppe zusammenzubringen, die sich mit der Thematik auseinandersetzen soll.
Alle miteinander werden wir versuchen, weitere Zwerggänse in Zuchten aufzuspüren und nach Möglichkeit mindestens Federproben von ihnen zu bekommen. Ich werde versuchen, Kontakt mit einer britischen Station aufzunehmen, von der wir wissen, dass dort wilde Zwerggänse überwintern und wo auch Zwerggänse in Zucht gehalten werden sollen.
Bezüglich eines gemeinsamen LIFE-Antrages hat Åke uns zunächst informiert, dass die NEPA vorhat, die Gruppe Tolvanen/Øien/Markkola anzufragen, ob sie an einem gemeinsamen LIFE-Antrag Interesse haben, obwohl diese Gruppe uns bereits geantwortet hat, dass sie bei keiner Wiedereinbürgerung beteiligt sein wollen. Ich habe Åke und Lauri informiert, dass wir aufgrund unseres LIFE Starter-Projektes in jedem Fall einen LIFE-Antrag erarbeiten müssen und angeboten, dass wir einen gemeinsamen schwedisch-finnisch-deutschen LIFE-Antrag erarbeiten können, in dem das schwedische und das finnische Wiedereinbürgerungsprojekt ebenso wie das UL-Projekt Bestandteile sind. Wir würden damit der Forderung der EU weitgehend entsprechen, einen gemeinsamen LIFE-Antrag zur Zwerggans zu erstellen.
Åke wird mit Torsten Larsson vom NEPA sprechen mit dem Ziel, auch dort einen Besprechungstermin zum Thema LIFE-Antrag zu erhalten.
Wir haben viele andere Dinge angesprochen, z.B. die Satellitenbildauswertung von Zwerggans-Brutgebieten, die ich hier nun nicht mehr im Detail aufführen kann.
Soviel (es ist schon fast wieder zuviel geworden) von mir für heute von unserem Treffen in Uppsala - und auch von hier aus nochmal herzlichen Dank an Lauri und Åke, dass Ihr Euch die Zeit dafür genommen habt! Ich meine, es war wirklich ein sehr gutes Treffen!!
Lauri Kahanpää (Adapted from IUCN:n oguidelines )
Re-introduction is always a very lengthy, complex and expensive process. IUCN has published guidelines, that are intended to act as a guide for procedures useful to re-introduction programmes. They are widely accepted, but do not represent an inflexible code of conduct. The primary audience of the guidelines is the practitioners, rather than decision makers ingovernments. The guidelines are of direct, practical assistance to those planning, approving or carrying out re-introductions. For our project they are very valuable.
Re-introduction is an attempt to establish a species in an area which was once part of itshistorical range, but from which it has become extinct. Re-inforcement is the addition of individuals to an existing population.
Our LWfG program is both . It is a re-introduction to Finland,but in Sweden one can consider it a re-inforcement program for the already existing population generated by the previous re-introductions.
Since extinciton of the LWfG in Sweden and Finland was a relatively recent event, the historic range and habitat requirements of the LWfG are well known. To choose optimal sites, the current project intends to use satellite data of the last known breeding sites and of the sites in the Swedish re-introduction area as a model and then find similar places. The final choice will take into account the long term protection aspects of candidate sites as well as possible cost factors: helicopter transports and the like should be avoided. A viewpoint specific for this project is taking into account future migration routes of the new populations. They should preferably go over Sweden where hunting pressure is lower than in Finland.
In Sweden and Finland there is no remnant population. In Norway and on the Kola peninsula only few remnant wild individuals exist and the remnant populations are in an acute need of re-inforcement.
In order to apply Lambart von Essen's method, one has to have access to suitable foster parents. Relatively close to the breeding farm there should be nests of free living Barnacle Geese which have already migrated and know how to fly to the Netherlands safely. In spring, the eggs of Lesser White.fronted Geese are put under these Barnacle Geese. But that isn't the whole story. Later - but almost immediately after hatching, before the mixed family swim away - they must be caught and transported to the Goose farm, where they will live in captivity for more than a month until they are ready to be transported all the way to Lapland and released there. Close to Lambart's facilities at Öster Malman there do live enough Barnacle Geese for the purpose.
In Finland we have planned to catch foster parent families where they breed - possibly near Turku or Helsinki. These olaces are 200 - 300 km away from the farm, but there is no alternative, since the local population of Barnacle Geese which exists close to our farm, is much too weak. So there would be a lot of travelling with eggs and goslings, and also just to control the timing at the Barnacle Goose nests. A new idea is to catch the future foster parents in the previous summer already - keep them in captivity over the winter - and let them breed directly inside the farm. This would save a lot of work. Probably we will try this next year.
Click here for more details and pictures and a follow-up to be updated as information comes in.
The Friends have purchased two system ARGOS-compatible satellite transmitters, type Wildlife Computers SPOT3. Satellite tracking will be used to monitor the migration routes of Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), which are caught in southern Finland, transported to Lapland and released there. The idea is to make sure, the future foster parents of our Lesser White-fronted goslings will choose the optimal migration route over Sweden and Denmark to Germany and the Netherlands .
SPOT3 is an almost prototype transmitter, specially designed to operate under difficult ocean conditions. SPOT3 has been tested on albatrosses, penguins and sea turtles but never before on geese. The transmitter can be programmed to operate on pre-chosen hours of the day and on arbitarily chosen days of the year. To save the precious energy of the battery, it will not operate, when submerged. The manufacturer provided us with some hardware and software, and - after the manufacturer had kindly corrected some bugs in the softwarit carries the larger battery option. We are in a lucky position, since the most interesting information will be aquired relatively soon after deployment - by the end of September we will probably know, wheteher our goose is shot by Finnish hunters, and if not, wether he is about to migrate via Finland or via Sweden. If things go optimally, the transmitter will send us information on some few days throughout the winter, become more active again during spring migration, and can be recovered some day in May 2004. The mounting teflin ribbons have been sewn with surgical catgut-thread to guarantee, that the goose will get rid of its back pack sooner or later in any case.
ARGOS-satellites have already discovered our tagged Father Goose (yes, we tagged the male) on the farm. My dear readers are invited to give it a name.
Erkki Kellomäki, Elena Gurtavaja, Ari Lehtinen, Eero Peltonen, Jouni Riihimäki, Natalia Ripatti & Petri Uronen
A Finnish-Russian Joint-Expedition crewed by Hame Regional Environment Centre, Finnish Environment Institute and the Bird Ringing Centre of Moscow visited in Kargopol Region, Arhangel oblast 7 - 14 May 2003. Aim of the Expedition was to continue inventories on migrating and breeding birds in this well-known but scanty documented Russian IBA-area. Inventories were financed by the Finnish-Russian Development Programme on sustainable forest management and conservation of biological diversity in Northwest Russia hosted by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of the Environment. Special attention was given to bird species included in EU Birds Directive. Area of the general Inventory was about 100 x 100 km, small Kargopol town (12 000 inhab.) locating in the middle of the area (co-ordinates 39o 00' E, 61o 30' N). In Kargopol Region are locating northernmost vast field areas, important for staging cranes and geese before reaching their breeding range in taiga and tundra belts. After collapse of Sovet Regime most part of fields are abandoned because of lacking governmental subsidies and fields are growing gradually bushes and loosing meaning as pasture for geese. Fields possess still high diversity value.
In year 2003 the spring was quite cool and migration of geese delayed. Thousands of White-fronts (Anser albifrons) and Bean Geese (A. fabalis) were seen daily, mainly on flight. Very interesting point was that this year were not seen any neck-banded White-fronts. Apposed to that in 2002 were seen more than ten (10) neck-banded geese. The rush of the Brent Goose (Branta bernicla) and Barnacle Goose (B. leucopsis) begang at the end of research period. The Expedition of the year 2002 was implemented two weeks earlier, on the second half of April. That time period indicated to be the peak of migrating White-fronts and Bean Geese.
The Expedition Team hoped to see also some Lesser White-fronted Geese (Anser erythropus) but small geese occured in flocks really very few. Sorry to find out that shotguns were superior in finding Lesser White-fronts. In one village were shot totally 31 geese during the hunting season (1-10 May) and 7 of them were Lesser White-fronts. It was told that hunters were not pleased with hitting on these only 2 kilo´s weight geese. They liked to hit bigger ones (White-fronts). The Expedition Team did not see these killed Lesser White-fronts but Identification of the species was ensured by a Hunting Inspector by means of a coloured Bird Guide.
It was told recently that near the airport of St. Petersburg (Pulkova) were shot in May 2003 four (4) geese by a group of foreign hunters. One goose in the bag was the Lesser White-front. If these two events should be generalized the Lesser White-front is really easy to shoot or it is more numerous than we imagined. Unfortunately the first alternative may be the right one.
Total number of bird species recognised during the Kargopol Expedition 2003 was 168. 37 of them include to Annex Species of EU Birds Directive. Almost all seen bird species occur in Finland as well, but their occurence and numbers are different. Common Finnish species Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), Crested Tit (Parus cristatus), Willow Tit (P. montanus) and Coal Tit (P. ater) were very uncommon. Uncommon or rare Finnish species Great Snipe (Gallinago media), Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus), White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) and Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) were recorded in many sites.
The small nesting population of Azure Tit (Parus cyanus) about five (5) nesting pairs discovered last year (2002) still existed on the bank of Svid River flowing to Lacha Lake from south (38 45 E, 61 10 N).
Courtship of four Great Snipes (Gallinago media) was one climax of the Expedition. We left back just when first Thrush Nightingales and nocturnal Warblers arrived. For full comprehensive survey of Kargopol birds needs to send still one Expedtion to the area two weeks later.
A detailed Report will be published on web-site in the series "Finnish Environment".
The second RGG confernce was held in Olonets, Karelia, just after Easter 2003. This was a follow-up to the first RGG conference in Moscow 2001. The Friends - and in fact Finland - were represented by myself only.
The Goose, Swan, and Duck Study Group of Nortern Eurasia. (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 conferences will especially contribute to consolidation of the scientists, conservationists, hunters and birdwatchers.
The Organizers had a formidable task to arrange a conference of this size in Karelia, where infrastructures are not exactly what one is used to in the West. The result was great: Not only did we have electricity all day and night long, but there were full scale computer systems, video screens etc. and simultaneous interpretation of all talks - something really beautiful at a meeting, where most of the talks are in Russian. At our leisure time, talking with other participants was easy too. English is commponly spoken, and volunteer interpretors were easy to find when needed. The hotel staff was to a large part fluent in Finnish - a language still spoken in Karelia. All in all, there is every reason to start this report by expessing my sincere gratitude to all the people who made this succeess possible.
The Olonets Geese
Olonets by the end of April was no arbitrary choice for the conference site. On the 20 000 hectars of cultivated land around the town (most of the area is wetlands, drained a couple of hudread years ago) is by this time occupied by tens of thousands of geese - mainly Bean (A. fabalis) and White-fronts (A. albifrons). In fact this is the main staging ground for these geese on their spring migration from western Europe to european and North West Asian Russia. We were lucky enough to observing large flocks - and personally I could enjoy seeing a neck collar ringed one among them. The leader of the local biological station, Dr. Vladimir Zimin, told us, that the geese are counted daily. A large part of the area is protected, but there also is spring hunting on some of the fields. Worse than hunting is a deterioriation of the feeding grounds due to a sharp decline in agricultural activity since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Large areas of the fields are slowly being covered by bushes. WWF Sweden has carried though a revival program aquiring tractors, fuel and seeds. This has lead to an improvement in both agricultural output and living conditions for the geese. For more on the Olonets geese, read Bulletin 1 / 2001 (in Finnish only).
The Goose is a symbol for Olonets, and all the town celebrated their annual Goose Festival, while we were there. A special entertainment was a running race of geese. It all happened on (orthodox) Easter sunday, but I could not hear any chuch bells ringing. Maybe, I did not listen?
Many nice talks were given. Most of them will again be published in "Cazarca" - ask the organizers to send you a copy. Most important to us, of course, was the workshop Lesser White-fronted Goose. As customary already, V.V. Morozov presented a survey paper on the current status of the species. The basic facts are already published in the previous issue of this Bulletin in the article on Wetlands International's Goose Conference in Spain. Dr. Morozov's article on the LWfG has already appaered in the most recent issue of Casarca
Dr. Johan Mooij presented the project of re-introducing the Lesser White-fronted Goose in Finland - and re-stocking in Sweden - using ultra-light aircraft. I myself reviewed the history of the re-introduction projects in Sweden and Finland. Most of the contents is similar to what I presented in Spain. Both at the round table and later on in the corridors, our approach got a lot of support. People mostly wondered how it is possible that we have little governmental suppport in Finland. For reasons unclear to me, Mooij's aircraft project still seems to be more controversial than our "Lambart von Essen style" system using Barnacle geese (B. leucopsis) as foster parents.
Among the sponsors of the conference one can find CIC - one of the best known hunter's organisations. Both Western and former Soviet hunters were well represented at the conference. This gave a splendid and unique opportunity to buid co-operation and mutual confidence between hunters, researchers and conservationists. Without support of the powerful hunter's organisations no progress will ever be possible in protection of the Lesser White-fronts in Russia - or elsewhere, for that matter. On the other hand there still exist sensitive questions. Spring hunting is one of them - and was carefully eradicated out of the conference resolution draft by the hunters. An interesting talk on the lethality of different kinds of ammunition was sheding light on the problem of wounding birds - something both hunters and conservationists dislike.
The final wording of the conference resolution is still unpublished, but it will contain a postitve statement on protecting the Lesser White-fronted Goose. The LWfG Task Force of Wetlands International still lies dead, and nobody is allowed to give any statements in its name.
This was my first trip to Russian Karelia - an iteresting and adventurous journey. I liked it a lot, and will certainly go there again - but this is not the proper place for tourism advertisment.
At the hospital, we have taken care of a few birds, among them a crane, a buzzard and a swan. Autumn is coming, and the young buzzard still is not able to catch his own food. I guess, he must stay over winter.
Just before snow melt in april, we had some very welcome guests form Sweden - people working with Projekt Fjällgås:
- Åke Andersson (Öster-Malma, project leader)
- Kalle Johansson (Öster-Malma, caretaker)
- Bertil Österberg (Öster-Malma, member of project)
- Marianne Österberg (Öster-Malma)
Having enjoyed watching the geese, we decided to cooperate in ordering food and building-material. I will also visit Öster-Malma.
Just before Midsummer, Aktion Zwerggans's delegation had a meeting in Finnish Parliament, and then they came here for a few hours. They were
- Johann Mooij (Scientific supervisor)
- Axel Paulsch (LIFE-Nature Project specialist)
- Wolfgang Scholze (Project leader)
They evidently liked what they saw here, and even planned to send some people to help us with the work some time. Of course, the main subject of discussion was our common LIFE-Nature Project. 2004-2006.
The broken net over the old Barnacle Goose Hall is repaired now, but the hall itself has to be torn down and built anew. The wind damage on the large pasture 's roof net is also repaired, and a completely new newt for all the farm has been ordered from Russia.
Our annual meeting was held 31.3.2003 in Hämeenlinna. Lauri Kahanpää (chair), Erkki Jaanu and Antti Ripatti were re-elected to the board. Member fees are now 45 for Finnish and 50 for foreign members. YOU HAVE PAID, HAVE YOU!
After the meeting Erkki Kellomäki offered us some coffee and cake, and we discussed the future of the project for a couple of hours. Most members were urging for a quick start of releases, since there is no reason to wait any more, and costs are rising. Erkki is going to retire (partly), and we all wished him a very good time.
- Häme Regional Environment Centre
- The International Wild Waterfowl Association (IWWA)
- Korkeasaaren ystävät ry
- Lämpöura Ky Pentti Tenhunen
- Markprint Oy
- Pirkanmaan lintutieteellinen yhdistys ry.
- Raatikuva Ky Heikki Löflund
- Rosenlew puutarhakalvot
- Artist Pekka Saikko
- Suomen Terästekniikka Oy
- mail: PO-Box 517 / FIN 13111 Hämeenlinna
- e-mail: <email@example.com>
- chairman: fil. dr. Lauri Kahanpää
- tel: (358)14-2602716 and (358)14-253364 (Finland=358)
- fax: (358)14-2602701
- farm: tel/fax 03 7654 727, mobile (358)440- 654727
- foreign membership: USD 50 or EUR 50 per annum
< firstname.lastname@example.org> Apr .20.2004