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LWfG Bulletin

2008 - No. 4

December 2008


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LWfG Bulletin 4/08:

Editor's Note

Lauri Kahanpää

Dear Friend.

Three Finnish issues of the Bulletin have appeared in 2008. Number 1 contains on 40 pages our detailed plan of how to reintroduce the Lesser White-fronted Goose in Finland. The plan exists in English as well - it will be published in the first Bulletin of 2009. Numbers 2 and 3 were ordinary Bulletins. This issue - number 4 - contains most of their material in English.

Finnish Lesser White-fronted Geese


To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because one is sure that it is false, is to assume that one's own certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. - John Stuart Mill -


An open letter to WWF Finland - dated 17.08.2000

Ilkka Koivisto

The author is founder and long-term chairman of the Finnish Lesser White-fronted Goose protection project. Today, a part of this formerly large organisation still remains calling themselves the Finnish Lesser White-fronted Goose Conservation project run by WWF-Finland or simply the WWF group. Since the publication of this letter, half of the Norwegian LWfG population were lost. Therefore, this letter is of more current interest than ever.

The Author never even got an answer to this letter. Instead, the breeders were sued for having "released foreign species". In Court, releases were found to be legal. That did not contribute to forgetting the conflict. Would it be time to forget it now?

Dear Reader

I hope, this letter will reach as many of those, who in one way or other are involved in protecting the Lesser White-fronted Goose. Burdened by too much administrative work, I some years ago had to give up my role as a project activist, but I still do nourish special feelings for this particular species.

The urgency of the situation became clear to me last spring [2000] when I visited the Nature Information Center in Liminka near Oulu. I also had talks with Mr. Pekka Niemisen in Hailuoto, where I could witness the current state of his, and our, former LWfG breeding project. He talked calmly, but I could not stay calm. I got angry. And later I did not calm down with what I found out. On the contrary, my anger only grew more fierce, in particular when I heared of the unfounded and unfair criticism that was thrown in the face of Lambart von Essen. But today, my rage is gone. Two weeks ago, I heard of Lambart's death. I regret him deeply. How can I best honour his life's work? Not by raging against anybody or anything, but by talking serenely. I must keep back all my scornful comments for which plenty of opportunities are offered.

So this is the situation: WWF and the Ministry have decided to interrupt financing the captive LWfG for reintroduction in Finland. This was motivated by a "Lack of Fennoscandian genes" and even possible signs of "hybridisation with GWfG".

In my opinion, this was not an adequate reaction but an unmotivated overreaction. I explain, why.

I have never been a super-scientist, but during my decades long career in popularising science, I have had an unusually wide-angled view of science. Therefore, I am aware of the fact that the modern concept of "species" is far away from Linne's idea of a God-created never-varying entity. All individuals of a sexually reproducing species are genetically slightly different. On one hand this means, that the species, so to say, offers material to be tested by current conditions. As Darwin puts it, the fittest survive and multiply. (Chance plays a role also, but here is no reason to elaborate on that subject.) On the other hand this means that a species also has a chance to survive, when conditions change. A lot of paper was already filled with this, beginning with the records on the Galapagos Finches. It may be helpful to notice the similarities: Both the Galapagos Finches and the Lesser White-fronted Geese live in an environment where conditions, in particular meteorological conditions, oscillate strongly in various time scales challenging the adaptivity of the species more than in other geographical areas.

So the LWfG population cannot and should not be genetically homogeneous. A completely uniform population would never have made it even to the last century, and likewise for the future, a suitable amount of variation is needed. I cannot believe that any member of the WWF group seriously means that the policy of keeping the "Fennoscandian population" completely clean of foreign genes could be crucial for the surviving of the species. I know only one category of people who don't seem to understand the value of genetic variability, namely "selective breeders" of domestic animals, who often seem to work on the assumption that continued selection in the end will lead to ever "better" individuals, whatever their quality criteria may be. (Just think of all the hereditary diseases in racially clean dogs.) I just cannot believe that the people worrying for "racial cleanness" of the LWfG could have such misunderstandings.

Let me spend a few more lines on the cleanness subject. They say, the captive birds show signs of "Eastern" genes. If so, has the harm been thoroughly analysed? Can we really claim that the possible differences between sample individuals of European and Asian origin would really account to better adaptation of the former to European conditions? We all know that the LWfG only spend a short time of each year here. Most of the time they are on migration or resting together with relatives from more Eastern breeding areas. This is the decisive point when talking about LWfG genetics.

Like many other waterfowl, also the LWfG form pairs in the wintering areas. A European born Goose will easily mate with a more Eastern one. Every conservationist - I myself as one of the keenest among them - would like to keep the original birds as they are. But one cannot demand more than is practically possible. For the reasons described above, the criteria of "purity" of "Fennoscandian" LWfG are, I'm sorry to have to say this, more an expression of wishful thinking than of sound reasoning. A completely different thing is the import of alien species from other continents. That is unethical. I just wonder, why nobody really sets one's face against the introduction of the Canada Goose for instance.

For a long time, I was leader of Helsinki Zoo. By then, most of the anti-extinction projects were strictly "racist", and of course one still has to admit that there generally is no meaning in hybridising individuals of different subspecies in captivity. Not until there are only a handful left. Pedigree books of more than a hundred species and subspecies are kept in Zoos. The use of individuals belonging to some subspecies can never be recommended in the range of another, when they clearly lack viability in the new environment. And there is another reason to be careful. For example, Sumatra tigers, only slightly larger than leopards, should not be introduced in the Amur taiga, if the local tigers would happen to die out. This is not only because of the climate, but because there lives a subspecies of the leopard there, and food competition between the species could possibly become severe.

Most people working with threatened species are more worried about lacking genetic variability in small populations, in particular captive ones. This is basically contrary to the worries that have led to abandoning the rescue project for the LWfG in Europe. People seem worried about surplus variability! In the evolutionary history of many species there have been "bottleneck phases" long before mankind became responsible for more. The classical example is the Cheetah, whose bottleneck phase is dated to ten thousand years ago and whose very uniform genetics is considered a severe problem by their conservation specialists.

I was one of the founders and I still am a keen supporter of the Saimaa Ringed Seal research and conservation programme. In spite of that, I would now be ready - as a young man I was more orthodox - to release Baltic Ringed Seals Seals-intointo Lake Saimaa, if the local seals would stand on the final verge of extinction - which is not the case yet. This I would do in spite of the fact that the Saimaa Ringed Seal is very close to be categorised as its own species. It has lived in isolation for 10 000 years which could be compared with for instance the polar bear, a species of approximately 15 000 year's age. And this brings us to the subject "Greater x Lesser White-fronted Goose.

The technology in modern genetics often rises sheer admiration in me. I say this truly honestly. I also did have such feelings when I heard that "traces" of Greater White-fronted Goose were detected in some LWfG sample. Another beautiful result was the timing of separation of the two species. Although most historians and archaeologists lose interest much before having travelled 20 000 years back in time, people understanding evolution will consider that a relatively short time span. It is easy to understand that the barriers against hybridisation are not tight between the two species, meeting in nature and having fertile offspring. Small scale hybridisation can also serve as way to cope with extreme weather conditions or other stress, much like with the Darwin Finches. I will not elaborate more on this either, nor will I do the habitual thing of referring to specialists whom I have talked to.

There was a fear, that Lambart von Essens Lesser White-fronted Geese would become imprinted on their foster parents, completely adapt their habits and even hybridise with Barnacle Geese. I think, this fear has proven groundless. Learning the migration route to safe wintering grounds is a different thing. That was wanted, and succeeded precisely because they were Geese. I admit, having heard of some cross species imprinting in captivity, I was concerned myself in the beginning. Fortunately, my concern was deep enough to make me think and read. Insight came very slowly. I should have understood the truth earlier, since I had observations of Galliformes. For both Galli- and Anseriformes, as well as other precocious birds imprinting on the parents is a completely distinct process from imprinting on their own species. Also the timing is different, so are the mechanisms. There is no space to give a longer explanation here, even if some details would further clarify what I will say now.

In captivity, and sometimes in nature, it happens that birds may be imprinted on a different species. But this is not in their early youth and has nothing to do with the relation to their mother. In contrast to the dramatic imprinting on the parents, imprinting on the species is a slow process, mostly having to do with the images of brothers and sisters and later with the shape of other individuals of the same species. This is how things work with Geese, other birds may have different systems like "genetically pre-programmed intuitions". The most obvious example of such a bird is the Cuckoo.

Using words like shape and image I only can describe part of the whole. Species-typical communication plays a decisive role in forming the species image. Communication schemes are largely species-specific and pre-programmed. This is so for most animals, actually including humans, although we seldom pay attention to it. Innate communication is the main reason why inter-species imprinting is so rare in nature. In captivity, in particular in absence of partners belonging to the same species, it is more common. "Love makes blind and deaf", as the saying goes. These considerations are illustrated by the behaviour of Lambart von Essens Geese. From their first migration, they never turned up at Skansen [in Stockholm, where their foster parents were caught]. Instead, a population of Lesser White-fronted Geese now breeds in the restocking area in Swedish Lapland, and already among the first breeding pairs there were unringed individuals, obviously born in other countries. This magnificent overall picture is not soiled by the few exceptional individuals that were observed in Southern parts of Sweden. If imprinting on on Barnacle Geese were common, no LWfG would be breeding in Lambart's arctic mountains, since they all have had to spend their first winters in flocks almost exclusively consisting of Barnacle Geese. Also, they abundantly come in contact with Greater White-fronts. But they have found better company among their sisters and brothers and all "Lambart's children". It feels almost like magic that some of Lambart's children have succeeded in finding original, unringed sex partners in the West European wintering fields. But there is no magic, only another proof of the strength of species-specific communication! [Cf. also "Historical Western..." in this Bulletin.]

Fifteen years ago [1985], when the decision was made, to begin breeding Lesser White-fronted Geese in Finland, we made the decision not to apply Lambart von Essens method here but to release the birds at a site, where there still were some original LWfG breeding. The only place was in Utsjoki, Finnish Lapland; in Enontekiö they were extinct already. The results did not conform to our wishes. The breeding population did not increase, on the contrary. No wonder, the action model was soon subject to negative criticism. Some of the criticism was unfair; at least we had tried to do something real.

As a person who knows something about Goose ethology, I was one of the decision makers. I had recommended a parallel project to test Lambart's method, but in the end I agreed to not applying it. Today, we know the results but by then we knew less. By then, we had positive experience of "simple" restocking of Geese. From our Zoo in Helsinki we had released Barnacle Geese [They were severely threatened after the nuclear tests in Novaja Zemlja] to staging grounds of their autumn-migrating Siberian counterparts. Together with their partners, these birds soon had multiplied to become a strong population, which evidently would have existed naturally as well, but would have grown slower.

The Barnacle Goose is sometimes blamed for "urbanisation", since they have not maintained their natural shyness for humans like the Bean, Grey-lag and Lesser White-fronted Geese. This view forgets that the urban Barnacle Geese are only a fraction of the total population. Also, there exist some "spoiled" Greylag populations as well, among others in Oslo. And anyway, what is so bad in urbanisation? Do we tear our shirts in shreds in protest of seeing Mute Swans, Mallards, Wigeons and various other waterfowl in towns, not to speak of the dozens of other bird species? No. Instead we consider town birds valuable and see in them a resource contributing to positive attitudes and links towards nature.

With the years, I have become more radical than ever, at the same time losing some of my more or less emotionally founded orthodoxy. Therefore, I think we should consider (Only now I confess, what was in my mind already as an activist in the restocking project) to release Lesser White-fronted Geese very much to the South of where they are known to have bred in Finland. Admittedly, we have no tundra here like they have in Utsjoki. But the left over peat production bogs look similar, when the industry has finished. Most of these areas seem to be left unused anyway, so why not create suitable habitats for the Geese there? And I would not mind some LWfG eggs in a few Barnacle Goose nests in Helsinki.

To conclude this lengthy story, I propose the almost impossible: Forget all past conflicts. This is the most difficult phase. A little easier is the following: Completely rethink the reintroduction of the Lesser White-fronted Goose. Analyse all alternatives from the view point of best benefit for the Geese themselves. But do not spend too much time on the Analysis. Protection is urgent. The first thing to do would be to ensure continued breeding at both Hailuoto and Hämeenkoski.


Scandinavian free living Lesser White-fronted Geese


Norwegian Lesser White-fronted Geese in 2007 and 2008

ed. Lauri Kahanpää

In 2007, weather favoured the breeding of the Lesser White-fronted Geese, both in Sweden and in Norway whereas in 2008 only few goslings were counted in August. However, breeding success plays almost no role for the survival of the Norwegian Geese since almost no 1:st. year birds make it back to Norway next spring in any case. This fact has an interesting consequence which is seldom mentioned: the Norwegian Geese are almost all old, experienced breeders. This is in contrast to Sweden, where a significant part of each year's immatures return from migration lowering the average age of the population. This difference is one explanation to the observed fact that Norwegian Geese have a slightly better breeding success than Swedish.

The following detailed data on the Norwegian Lesser White-fronted Geese can be found on the Norwegian "Piskulka" web page where observations of European - except Swedish - Lesser White-Fronted Geese are collected until the corresponding "Aktion Zwerggans"- page will be opened. Since the "Piskulka" page originally was intended for following Norwegian birds only on their migration, older observations of Russian birds over wintering in and west of Germany were excluded also, but recent ones seem to find acceptance. The older record, proving the former strength of the Western migration route, has still to be looked for in scientific journals. (Some are described in the paper by Mooij below.)


In mid winter 2006-2007, about a dozen LWfG stayed in the delta of the Evros river in Greece, among them a non-breeding pair equipped in Norway with satellite transmitters. The two birds had arrived from a long tour far behind the Ural mountains. At the same time, in Hungary a few more individuals still were on their autumn migration down south, and also in Poland sporadic observations were made. Further South-East, an interesting observation of a flock of 54 individuals was made in Syria. By the end of February, 49-54 LWfG were counted in a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese, and soon the Greek birds started their migration, at least some of them via Lake Kerkini. A week later 33 were seen swimming in the Hortobágy area in Hungary and a week later their number was up at 43, the maximum for that spring. In mid April, one third of the birds continued their migration. The rest stayed until April 21. It seems plausible that these 32 birds were identical to the original flock of "Norwegian" birds. At least 7 of them were marked in Norway. A couple of days later, they began to appear on the Matsalu fields in Estonia where 11 were seen on the best day, some more elsewhere in Estonia. In May, some of the birds were identified near Oulu, Finland, where the total stayed at 11 birds in spring 2007. The most important event in the annual observation cycle of Norwegian LWfG is the mid-May count at the Valdak marshes near the Porsanger Fjord in Norway. Here the flocks gather before spreading out in the breeding area. (According to P. Tolvanen / WWF/ and at least 85 per cent of the total population are observed there.) The spring total in 2007 was 30 individuals, of which 2 juveniles.

In average, half of the adult LWfG breed, so the expectation this year was 7 breedings - very close to the long time prognosis in our computer model (6 successful). But it turned out that 2007 was a very successful year: all bred, and 13 possible or certain breedings were found in the summer census by NOF/WWF. In August a short time maximum of 28 juveniles were seen at the Valdak concentration area. The total Norwegian LWfG number in autumn 2007 was 66.

Having passed the flight over Russia the LWfG stayed in Hortobágy in mid September. There were 54 local LWfG, among them some marked birds and 30 juveniles. The tagged pair was present together with 4 of their originally 5 young. The Hortobágy birds had arrived in several waves, so probably not all were of Norwegian origin. This hypothesis is corroborated by a dozen LWfG observations around Germany and Hungary and a few more in Poland.

In November observations in Hungary become more sparse as the birds turn up in Greece, first 12 and soon 54 individuals at Lake Kerkini. At least 5 of these were identified as juveniles and some carried colour rings. Later, the lake flooded and about twenty of the Geese left the area soon appearing in the Evros delta. Among these there was the tagged pair which had also been seen at Kerkin. Soon there were 33, of which at least 4 young. Another. In mid winter there were at least 57 LWfG in Greece, among them at least 3 broods - with at least 12 young.

the Evros delta


Still in mid February there a flock of at least 24 LWfG, 8 young, stayed mainly in the Lake Kerkini area with occasional appearances in the Evros delta. Only singular birds were seen in Hungary by then, and no wonder, since the whole wintering group seems to have stayed in Greece all the time: still in mid March 54 stayed in the Evros delta. This is exceptional, usually they leave for the North already in February. A few days after having left Greece, the whole flock arrived in Hungary: 49 stayed for a month in the Hortobágy area.

In Estonia, the LWfG spring began in its normal way by mid April but no big concentrations or total numbers were seen the final count staying below two dozen. In contrast, the Säärenperä area near Oulu provided a pleasant surprise for local ornithologists: unusually many small flocks adding up to about 20 individuals were seen during the season. There were hopes for rising numbers in Norway. But spring 2008 was different in may ways: Unusually cold weather had delayed spring vegetation and the LWfG did not fully concentrate at the usual sites in the Valdak marshes. In spite of the excellent year before, an all time minimum of only 25 LWfG were seen at the spring concentration site. Of the originally 28 juveniles, 6 were reported in spring. Fortunately, later observations pointed at better survival; the birds had probably flown unusually directly to their breeding areas. After all, 12 breeding were confirmed or at least suspected in summer - almost as many, and obviously the same birds as in the year before, since yearlings do not breed and practically no juveniles from the previous year survived. Although predators (red fox) had been killed in the area, breeding success was bad in 2008. (For comparison, the equally bad year in Sweden was blamed on the absence of rodents, whence predation pressure concentrated on birds.) Finally, in August the LWfG returned to the marshes, and were counted. 40 individuals were observed, among them 13 juv. in only 3 broods. (For comparison: 2007: 66/27 and 2009: 24/3 (check this added data). )

By satellite tagging it is known that non-breeding LWfG and failed breeders fly East all the way to theTaimyr peninsula for moult. It is possible that quite a few were there in August having failed in breeding. Final results can be estimated by winter observations in Hungary. By the end of September, 33 LWfG, of which at least 4 juveniles, stayed in the Hortobágy area Colour rings indicated that most if not all were from Norway. Single LWfG have stayed late in winter in Estonia also, as well as in Germany, Poland,, Austria and even France and Italy. In Greece, they have arrived in the first days of November soon counting 30-34 individuals at Lake Kerkini. Later their number rose ton 45, including a brood of 4 juv who later disappeared. Simultaneously, there still 13 LWfG in Hungary, including 2 broods with totally 5 juveniles. These birds probably have come from Russia, not Norway. The same is true with respect to the 14 adults (zero juv!) which appeared on Dec. 13.12 on Lake Neusiedler See between Austria and Hungary. (Near Sopron, Hungary) If this is the case, then the location of no one of 2008:s juveniles is known by the end of the year.

All in all, the Norwegian relict population just shrinks year by year independently of breeding result. There is no need to correct the predictions but there is very much need to correct the protection measures. '


Swedish Lesser White-fronted Geese 2007

Åke Andersson

Dear friends

Here in Sweden everything is as usual. The Action plan draft lay on ice for a few years but I have heard work on it is being done again. Naturvårdsverket and the Norrbotten County Administrative Board (länsstyrelsen i Norrbotten) will complete the work but I hope I will have a chance to see the result before printing. Our Russian LWfG are doing well, the first ones bred this year (2008) producing 3 young. On the other hand, catching more in Russia was no big success this time, and we will only get 2 more geese from Russia this time. And even worse was the year for our free living LWfG: they seem to have had only 4 young. The small rodents crashed in the middle of the breeding time and I believe that predation pressure therefore was very high resulting in large losses. I attach the formal report for 2007. This year's report will hopefully be ready soon as well




Historical Western migration of LWfG

ed. Lauri Kahanpää

Reviving the safe South-Western migration route of the Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose has been blamed to be "unnatural". When one "Googles" for "kiljuhanhi", Finnish for the LWfG, the internet search engine easily find the following URL: . The page contains a typical representative of this kind of misunderstandings. I have translated some of the contents into English: (The original was published in December 2006 in Ilta-Sanomat, the best known Finnish tabloid.)

"WWF Finland has equipped three Geese with satellite transmiters to find the winter home of the Lesser White-fronted Geese. The names of the Geese are Finn, Nieida and Imre.

Only 20-30 pairs of the extremely threatened Lesser White-fronted geese still breed in the Fennoscandian arctic highlands, mostly on the Norwegian side. In Finland, the last breeding of this Goose with its characteristic high song was in 1995.


The risks by the Evros were already well known to the leader of the Swedish hunter's organisation, the late Lambart von Essen, who initiated the protection of the LWfG. His great idea was to turn the Scandinavian LWfG:s migration route from the overly fired South East to the more peaceful South-West. For this, he intended to use Barnacle Goose foster parents, caught in Stockholm. The LWfG goslings, born in captivity, were released into nature, and following the Barnacle Geese to Holland.

But the western craze did not infect the wild geese. That was fortunate, since definitely one of the most wonderful species-specific features of the Lesser White-fronted Goose is their migration pattern. Have one more look at the map and admire the logic and power behind this kind of travel! Restocking was begun in Finland too.

Under guidance of the WWF group, a restocking project restocking was initiated in Finland, too, but the mortality of the released goslings was high. Later, there were suspicions of the genetic purity of the captive geese. The formal reintroduction project was closed in good order, but some tough guys continued the activity giving the permission to themselves. In recent years nothing is heard of them anymore.

This writing cites many of the disinformation spread by rivals of the reintroduction project. A short look at the WWF data, on the same WWF site, where the author has found his three satellite geese, one can find data proving that there by no means are 20-30 pairs breeding in Norway but only six on the average and up to a dozen in optimal years. The "formal" project was by no means "closed in good order". Instead, the project simply abandoned the Finnish LWfG and the staff on the breeding station. They did not even pay for the work done already. Continued breeding was by no means done without permission. It was run by appointment and supervised by Häme Environmental Center, the local governmental authority for nature conservation. Later, also the European Union stepped in. As for releases, the Ministry of the Environment was asked for permission, but no permission was given, for the simple reason that no permission is needed for releasing domestic species. It is sufficient to ask the land owner. And finally: we have not disappeared at all; rescuing the LWfG goes on.

But more important than the false "facts" is the attitude revealed by the text above. The writer really expresses the wish that it would be better for the Lesser White-fronted Geese to die out than to migrate in an unnatural direction. Admittedly, he can declare this a matter of taste, so he may have the right to think so. But after all, there is no need to persuade him to change his mind. The South-Western migration route is equally natural and as traditional as the South-Eastern one. Some LWfG have always migrated to the North Sea, even to Britain. To survive, the Lesser White-fronted Geese do not have to learn anything new. This becomes very clear when one reads the classical literature on the subject. [In my bookshelf: [Ringleben 1957] and [Kivirikko 1948]. Also one of the the maps published recently by WWF Finland is correct.]. Since the subject was controversial, it was recently studied carefully. Some studies are presented below.

Swedish archives:

The following maps contain some LWfG observations made in Sweden in the years 1900...1981, well before the first releases of captive bird. Their distribution over the years is shown in table 1.: [Mooij & al. 2008]

































Table 1: Swedish archive observations of LWfG before rweintroduction


Fig. 1: Swedish LWfG during spring migration (March-May) before reintroduction


Fig. 2: Swedish LWfG during autumn migration (September-November) before reintroduction


Fig. 3: Swedish LWfG in winter (December-February) before reintroduction


The following maps illustrate satellite- and ringing observations of West-Eurasian (Russian) LWfG during their whole annual cycle. [Mooij & al. 2007]


Fig. 4: Satellite tracking

Fig. 5: Migrationpattern according to satellite and ringing data.

Current Western migration

LwfG of Russian origin are annually observed wintering in European countries like Poland, Germany and the Netherlands. Systematic observation data exists only for a few years, so the total numbers and their variations are unknown, but the number of birds must, by far, exceed 100 annually, since already observations (!) in Germany pile up to an average of 56 in the years 2000-2004. More LWfG are seen in Germany than in Norway! And still: that is only a half per cent of the total Western Eurasian population. The question arises, why do not many more Russian LWfG stay over winter in the safe Dutch fields. The answer is easy: to get there, they must fly long distances over unknown routes in the territory of former Soviet Union and other Eastern countries, where they are subject to hunting. The LWf that have most advantage of flying to the West are the most Western, in particular the Fennoscandian ones.

The following table and maps contain LWfG observations from Germany. Most of the observed birds lack ring marking, so they come from Russia, not from the Swedish project. The chronological distribution is given in table 2. [Heinicke & al. 2008]




















































































Germany total











Table 2: German LWfG observations by decades and states. Observations have increased by time. This is not due to an increase in birds but an increase in observation activity. States: BB=Brandenburg, MV=Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, NI=Niedersachsen, NW=Nordrhein-Westfalen, SA=Sachsen-Anhalt, SN=Sachsen, SH=Schleswig-Holstein, TH=Thüringen.

Fig. 6: LWfG are not seen accidentally


Fig. 7: Migration of German LWfG.


The Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose


Volunteers welcome

Breeding and protecting Lesser White-fronted geese requires hard work. The hardest job is Pentti Alho's, who already for two decades has daily taken care of our birds be it week day or sunday, summer or winter. Like other people, Pentti also needs some rest - and sometimes he needs help. So the Friends have decided to organise a helping hand for him once a week. During the busiest season, which is when the geese breed in April-May, he should have an assistant all the time.

Since we have no adequate funding, help must be organised through volunteer work. The weekly help need not come on Sundays - for example Tuesdays are preferable. We have set up a list on our home page, where You can find the days, when somebody has already promised to come, and Pentti's wishes for the near future. You may always call Pentti 358-3-7654 727 (Finnish or German, please) or Lauri Kahanpää (35850-4652301). Those who live too far away to come to work can support the breeding effort financially by once or even regularly donating a suitable sum to our bank account mentioned below. The money will be spent to hire help next spring 100% (and more!) will go to this purpose. In fact we also heavily rely on donations to keep business going as usual. Already fodder and electricity cost more than our annual income from the membership fees.


The general meeting in spring 2008

The meeting

The annual general meeting was held on May 7.2008. Sufficiently many active members were present - and our invited guest Pentti Alho. All formalities went as usual: The report of activities and the financial report 2007 were accepted, and the board was discharged from liability. The activity- and financial plan for 2008 were accepted.

The membership fee for 2008 for institutional members is 100 euros, for personal members 40 euros (foreigners, please pay 10 extra for postage) or 8 hours work.

The board was slightly renewed: Jyrki Patomäki wished to retire so he was replaced by Erkki Kellomäki. The board 2008:

Report 2007 (9. year)

The report below is unusually long - the Finnish original even longer. This time we have included some older history in order to give a fuller picture of what the Society is really about.

Results of activities 2007

a) The breeding farm: The Society has a long run co-operation agreement with the Finnish government, represented by the Regional Environment Centre of Häme. According to this agreement, the Society is obliged to use those of our buildings, which were originally constructed by the Regional Environment Centre, for breeding LWfG. Today, most of our buildings are of other origin, but the obligation still remains for 2008. All buildings were overhauled and the renewal program was continued during 2007.

The buildings are in better condition than ever - in particular we have completed the heavy reconstruction after the disaster in 2005, when a large part of the buildings collapsed in an extreme snow storm:

In particular, the main pasture area (1500 m^2) can now be used again, and is much safer than before. It is now divided into 5 compartments and roofed by chicken wire instead of the original textile nets. The newest hall got electric lights which can be used for synchronising the breeding of LWfG and Barnacle Goose parents in spring. This is essential for the restocking method. The old and unwieldy tractor (Ford 1700) was replaced by a new, nice and handy AVANT 220

which will be very useful not only for daily fodder transports but also for replacing the dirty sand (the whole area should be gone through every year- at least once). A garage was built for the machine.

Because of the bird flu situation, no wild birds were accepted for treatment in our bird hospital.

b) The Geese: The main activity of the Society is breeding Lesser White-fronted Geese for restocking in Finland. After the 2005 catastrophe when 40 % of our stock were lost, production is going up again. 29 goslings hatched in 2007 and by the end of the year our LWfG numbered 95. An all time low of only ten died during the year in accidents and disease. 4 were set free. No epidemics were suspected.

The pedigree data is on the computer now and gene samples from all breeding birds 2007 are waiting for analysis. No new birds have been imported. Our joint project with the Swedish hunter's organisation Jägareförbundet to import LWfG from Russia failed in 2004, since the Nordic Council of Ministers did not fund it. After that, in April 2005, the international and national LWfG conferences in Lammi, Finland, recommended immediate catching of LWfG from Western Russia for breeding. The Zoo Nordens Ark near Gothenburg, Sweden, now has twice received Russian birds, a total of 15. The first breeding has taken place. Import of 15 more is planned. As for us, professor Wink's encouraging test results have confirmed the Russian origin of the formerly East German LWfG now being kept in German zoos. As the Russian donor population is heavily threatened, these clean birds should be used for import to Finland instead of catching more in Russia. (Cf. the IUCN recommendations) The global captive LWfG population currently consists of about 300 individuals, including our 95, equally many in Sweden and 87 clean-tested birds on Germany. (Only one of the tested 88 German birds failed the rigourous test.) The remaining 100 birds are spread in other zoos, some in Russia. None of these are gene tested.

c) Restocking: For releasing domestic species like the Lesser White-fronted Goose or the Barnacle Goose in nature in Finland needs only an agreement with the land owner and need not be reported anywhere. Of course, the birds must represent the original species and subspecies. The LWfG has only one subspecies. In February 2007 prof. Wink's research group in Heidelberg, Germany, informed us about their finding, according to which the mitochondrial alleles, earlier suspected to be signs of hybridisation with the Greater White-fronted goose, should not be interpreted as such but are common to both species since the time before their separation. So the earlier recommendation of waiting for further results before setting such birds free (Kholodova 2001) is obsolete, and these birds can be used for our project. This interpretation was unanimously accepted at the GOOSE 2007 meeting of Wetlands International's Goose specialist group in Xanten, Germany. Also, our birds represent the Western population of the LWfG (the Eastern migrating to China), which makes them not only legally but also biologically particularly suitable for reintroduction in Europe.

d) Conference follow-up: The decisions made at the Helsinki-Lammi LWfG Conferences have (not) been realised as follows:

International conference:

National conference:

e) Publications and PR: The respected ornithological journal ''die Vogelwelt'' will publish two full size 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.

The Society has sent information on the progress at GOOSE 2007 in Xanten and the need for immediate LWfG protection measures to the Regional Environment Centres, and included the Bulletin 2/2007.

The Society has informed the Ministry of the Environment of the shortcomings in the process of preparing the national protection plan and the serious shortcomings in the plan draft.

Three Finnish and one English Bulletin (more than 100 pages) appeared in 2007, both on paper and on line.

Jointly with Jyväskylä University, the Society was granted the right to enter a closed island near Helsinki, where 50 pairs of Barnacle Geese breed. The permit to catch some of the birds for use as foster parents still lingers. A complaint of the illegal delay was sent to the Attorney General (oikeuskansleri). A similar situation is developing near Turku, where a local court gave the Society right, but an appeal to the highest court still lingers.

f) International co-operation:

Aktion Zwerggans' airplane project was delayed again. Planning continues with the goal of flying in 2009 or 2010.

Friends again participated in the international Siberian Crane Monitoring Project in Kostanay, Kazakhstan, where also the LWfG is a project species. Preliminary results of ten year's monitoring were published in our Bulletin and a final report to appear in ''die Vogelwelt''. The main conclusion is this: The LWfG are diminishing in Asia, not only in Europe. They are shot more than in proportion of all ''White-fronted Geese''. The reasons were found.

In February 2007 the chair and secr. , alongside with Pentti Alho, participated in GOOSE 2007 in Xanten, Germany. A report was published in our bulletin.

g) Finances:

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

ACTION PLAN FOR 2008 (Abbreviated. 10:Th. year.).


Breeding Lesser White-fronted Geese and freeing them into Finnish nature will be continued in 2008 following the IUCN recommendations. For this purpose, the Society raises funding and sends volunteers to help Pentti Alho.

Since repairing the breeding farm constructions is completed, in 2008 more capacity can be concentrated on breeding proper: keeping the cages and pasture areas clean, preparing for restocking, research and PR and import of fresh stock from Germany. Using Barnacle Geese as foster parents requires very much driving: regular visits to the natural breeding places of these birds: Turku or Helsinki, and the transports to Lapland.

The Society has a very good breeding site in our possession; according to the agreement with Häme Regional Environmental Centre, all constructions will become our own property by the end of the year 2008. The Society has no debts, but this is so only because Pentti Alho has not billed the Society for the work done in 2007. Therefore, raising funds must still be considered a first priority. Potential sponsors might open their wallets, when final information of the formal international acceptance of the captive birds for reintroduction will be made and published, which we expect to happen in 2008.

Maintenance list

Breeding list:

Domestic protection of LWfG. Organisation goals:


International activity and goals

Financial plan

Immediate expenses for breeding are mainly fodder and energy: total up to EUR 3 000. Pentti Alho's work should be paid for. The new tractor and its costs will hopefully be donated to the Society.

Income: about EUR 1500 membership fees, the rest donations.(?)

Wealth: The Society owns a large breeding farm in good condition and almost 100 extremely valuable birds.


The 2007 LWfG Painting

Lauri Kahanpää

Artist J. Könönen has painted our newest wonderful piece of art and donated it to our use. We express our sincere gratitude!

High quality copies of LWfG paintings by well-known artists are donated to persons who have significantly contributed to conservation of the Lesser White-fronted Goose.





Korkeasaaren ystävät ry

Lämpöura Ky Pentti Tenhunen

Markprint Oy

Pirkanmaan lintutieteellinen yhdistys ry.

Hämeenlinnan Raatikuva Ky Heikki Löflund


Contact information

<> Technical update done Nov 15 2006