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LWfG Bulletin

2009 - No. 4

December 2009


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LWfG Bulletin 4/09:

Translator's Note

Lauri Kahanpää

Dear Friend.

Three Finnish issues of the Bulletin have already appeared in 2009. Number 1 contains on 44 English pages our detailed plan of how to reintroduce the Lesser White-fronted Goose to Finland. The Finnish issues are our Brochure and an ordinary Bulletin. This issue - number 4 - contains most of the material of the Finnish Bulletin 3/09 in English.


A Decade with the Ministry of the Environment

Antti Haapanen


1. A letter to the Minstry of the Environment

2. The international LWfG conservation meeting in Finland

3. First complaints to the Attorney General (oikeuskansleri)

  1. the Ministry of the Environment has not answered the letters by the Society which contained support applications for:
    1. managing the breeding site;
    2. checking the genetic status of the captive geese;
  2. the Ministry has not deemed it necessary to inform the Society on the answer to the afore mentioned letter by three experts, even though it fundamentally affected the actvities of the Society;
  3. the Ministry published false information on the Society's Life Nature application in the year 2000 and blocked chances for their application to be considered for support by the EU;
  4. the Ministry failed in the years 2004 and 2005, to express support for the joint project of the Society with the German NGO Aktion Zwerggans and other partners which aimed at finding support of the Life Nature funding for continued restocking of the specdies beginning in Sweden. This blocked the project for further consideration by the EU;
  5. the Ministry unfoundedly sued the Society for releasing Lesser White-fronted Geese into nature in Lapland;
  6. the Ministry refuses to comply with its international obligations to support maintain an ex situ population of the Lesser White-fronted Goose;
  7. the Ministry has delayed the handling of applications to the extent that the matter become obsolete before being decided upon.

    The Attorney General made his decision on 29.5.2008. The following four actions by the Ministry were critisized:

    • the Ministry made no decisionon the support applications mentioned in complaint 1.
    • the Ministry did not inform the Society on their positions mentioned in complaint 2;
    • the Ministry gave misleading information inpoint 3;
    • the Ministry acted in contradiction to the HALLINTOLAKI by dealying their decision in point 7 thus preventing the relevant local authority to decide the matter in due time;

    The following three actions by the Ministry were accepted by the Attorney General:

    • the Ministry did not support the Life Nature application by Aktion Zwerggans and partners, point 4;
    • the Ministry sued the Society's goose breeder and lost the law suit, point 5;
    • the Ministry refused to financially support the society in point 6.

4. The Society's applications for permissions to catch Barnacle Geese for research purposes

5. Further projects

Fennoscandian free living Lesser White-fronted Geese


Finnish LWfG 2000-2009

Erkki Kellomäki and Lauri Kahanpää

Distribution of Finnish LWfG observations in spring and autumn 2000-2009

Norwegian LWfG 2009

Lauri Kahanpää (data LWfG Life Project)


Greetings from Sweden, summer 2009

Åke Andersson

Some more information on Swedish LWfG

ed. Lauri Kahanpää

Counted goslings. Releases were interrupted in 1998.

Update of Numbers and Catching of LWfG in European Russia

Lauri Kahanpää (Data Vladimir Morozov, E.E. Syroechkovsky Jr., Konstantin Litvin and Oleg Mineev)

The overall situation


West of the Pechora

From the Pechoralta too the Urals

The Asian side

Numbers of counted LWfG in the Kostanay lake area vary with weather and water level but the trend becomes visible (Newest data Sergey Yerokhov, GOOSE 2009)




Wetlands International's GOOSE 2009 in Sweden

Antti Haapanen and Lauri Kahanpää

Wetlands International's Goose Specialist Group held their annual meeting GOOSE 2009 in October 2009 in Höllviken near Falsterbo, Scania, the southernmost point in Sweden. At this traditional meeting, we represented the Friends of the Lesser White-fronted Goose. We listened to 65 talks and distributed 90 copies of our Conservation Plan to the Goose Specialists. Other Finns at the meeting were P. Tolvanen (WWF) and Nina Mikander, the LWfG secretary of the AEWA. The emphasis of the meeting was on the Bean Goose and on (too?) large goose populations causing problems like crop damage. The following lines contain some impressions of talks that we found most important or interesting. Since they deserve their own story, the talks about Russian LWfG were already referred to above.  

The site fidelity of the LWfG

Western migration of Lesser White-fronted Geese

In our Bulletin 4/2008 details on the western migration of the LWfG were already given. Here some more evidence, presented at GOOSE 2009 (J. Mooij)


Already in Sergei N. Alphéraky's (1850-1918) great "The Geese of Europe and Asia. (London, Rowland Ward. 1905)" the Greeater and lesser White-fronted Goose are treated separatelysnd their breeding and mwintering areas are described in detail.

Alphéraky's map on the breeding and wintering areas of the LWfG.

The following maps are updated versions of the corresponding ones in Bulletin 4/08 (Thomas Heinicke and Johan Mooij).

19th century.


1950 - 1981 ; before Swedish and Finnish restocking.


Numbers of Barnacle Geese

J. Karagitseva and H. van der Jeugd described the phenomenal increase of numbers and breeding range of the Barnacle Goose after having been almost as rare as the LWfG. The interruption of the Cold War nuclear tests on Novaja Zemlja cannot explain it all. The species seems to have adapted new strategies, and is currently not only spreading to the Baltic but also numerously breeding in the wintering areas by the North Sea while the main population keeps on expanding in the Russian Arctic.

The main population still breeds in the arctic, but the fastest growth is by the North Sea

Neozoic geese

Recently introduced species of geese are monitored in Germany in projects described in the talk by S. Homma and O. Geiter. More than 8000 have been ring marked, including 6000 Canada Geese. More than 100 000 observations are made. Most species have no significant effects on the ecosystem since they never established. Some are successful. If breeding goes on for 25 years and 3 generations, these acquire the same legal status as autochlon species. Such are in order of population size:

In Germany, the Canada Goose is increasing rather fast but only slowly widening its breeding range, which leads to high densities inside - much like Andersson describes the LWfG in Sweden. (Only, German Canada Geese do not migrate at all.)

In France, the Canada Geese have increased in 10 years from about 1000 to about 5000 individuals corresponding to 1000 breeding pairs. Crop damage and hygienic problems are reported and the population is now somewhat controlled by infertilizing eggs etc. (C. Fouque and V. Schricke)

Chinese LWfG

Cao Lei and Mark Barter gave three interesting talks on Geese, in particular LWfG wintering in China. The whole population gathers at East Dongting Lake. The threats are obvious, the area is the same where more than a thousand were poisoned to death come years ago. The more technical part of their talk was about LWfG feeding behaviour and habitat use in winter.


Import of new Russian LWfG?

Pentti Alho

This winter came early, but luckily we have cleaned the cages in time before freezing. Actually, the large hall would still neeed a few tons of fresh sand but taking the dirt away under freezing conditions is not so easy. Last year we did not manage to change the sand on the whole area and that had some effect on the geese. There is a clear correlation between the hygienic status of the farm and the health of the birds. The size of our captive population has not grown since the catastrophe (we lost 50) in 2005. This is partly because unfortunately the best producing birds were killed in the snow storm, partly to the annual loss of stock by releasing goslings into nature.

In spite of the 200 square meters of obstacle tarpaulins, geese still get killed by flying against the cage walls. Our experimental cutting of wing feathers of some birds seems not to have brought any improvement, but there still is not enough data for final conclusions. The productivity of arctic geese like Lesser White-fronted in captivity is annoyingly low. This must be taken into account when planning for the future - something that is done in thecomputer model Effects.xls. It is of vital importance to increase the captive population. If that fails, there will not be enough goslings to be released - a problem that marred the original Swedish and Finnish preojects in the 1980s as well.

A second breeding site would be very welcome but no such development is in sight. The only chance for a quick partial soluton could be cooperation with some zoo, maybe Ähtäri or Ranua. Another bottleneck is the need for a few helping hands on the farm, in particular during breeding time in April and May. Managing alone is becoming impossible.

Import of new birds.



The Restocking Method

Jyrki Patomäki

The basic system

Restored Conservation Status

Imprinting of the Barnacle Geese

A Problem

Imprinting on the parents and imprinting on their species are completely separate processes (Cf. I. Koivisto in 4/08). Therefore it seldom happens that the LWfG goslings are imprinted on the species Barnacle Goose and later hybridize with these birds. In the few cases when this has happened, mixed pairs have never been observed in Lapland, only in south Sweden and possibly south Finland.

Hybrids between various goose species are not uncommon in nature (E. M. McCarthy 2006, Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World. Oxford University Press. 583 pp), but hybrids of the next generation are extremely rare. In fact, most hybrids are infertile like the mule. This means, their chromosomes do not fit together. In addition to that, hybrids do not respond correctly to the pairing rituals of either of their parent species, so they almost never even get a chance to test their chromosomes. Therefore, the main disadvantage caused by the occasional mis-imprintings is the loss of potential Lesser White-fronted Geese from the project population. I guess, nobody will seriously consider the loss of one potential Barnacle Goose a threat to that species!

On breeding results

Why release in Finland?

The release of LWfG goslings and their foster parents summer 2009

Antti Haapanen and Lauri Kahanpää

The Finnish LWfG reintroduction programme suffers under the lack of Barnacle Goose foster parents. The reason for this problem is that our permits to catch new foster parents have laid for years in the files of various Administrative Courts delayed by complaints sent by local units of Finnish BirdLife. We only have few from earlier catching. In spring 2009 two pairs begun breeding in the correct time in relation to the breeding of our captive LWfGs but unfortunately one of these breeding failed because of extreme weather conditions.

Fig. 1. The transmitter weighing 18 grams would fall off in about one year as the harness breaks down in daylight.

So in 2009 we were able to release only one family. The Barnacle Goose female was equipped with a satellite transmitter. We hoped to follow their movements and especially the migration south July 20 the birds were released in a good habitat close to the forest limit in Finnish Lapland. We were daily able to record the movements of the family with an accuracy of 100 meters. About ten days later, a local fisherman happened to see the unexpected birds photographed them and took the picture to the local BirdLife for identification.

From August 9 on, the satellite information showed that the transmitter had ceased to move. We checked the area on our maps and on Google Earth, and it looked like peat land with small ponds. Later it turned out that the satellite pictures must have been created in spring or after heavy rainfall; in reality it was rather some upland birch wood habitat and not at all a site where you would expect to find geese. So we sent our own expedition to find out what had happened. They found remnants and the rings of our Barnacle Goose female but did not find a fresh cadaver or the expensive transmitter. (See their report in this bulletin.)

Fig. 3. A weird view on Nature Conservation?

The transmitter was programmed to function in different hours of the day and it took a month until it was operating in daylight. September 12 we send another group to inspect the place and to search for the satellite transmitter. They had appropriate equipment. A handheld yagi antenna was designed and built by dr. Pekka Kekäläinen at the department of physics, Univ. of Jyväskylä, and EVP-Tekniikka company provided a pocket size radio receiver capable to hear the very special frequency.

Tiedettä, tekniikkaa ja käsityötä

Using these tools the radio transmitter which had been on the back of the female Barnacle Goose was found in a couple of hours not far from where the rings had lain.

In late September we got to know from a private person that already in late August the Environmental Center of Lapland had given some Natural Heritage Service rangers the permit to eliminate the Barnacle Geese foster parents by shooting and the LWfG goslings by catching and taking them back to our farm. Neither we nor our research partner, Jyväskylä University, were informed by the officials.

In addition to this we learned that the Environmental Centre had asked the local police to inspect whether alien/exotic species had been released into nature by us. The first author of this article took contact to the police clarifying the question whether the Barnacle Goose is an alien/exotic species in Lapland whose release could be in conflict with the Finnish Nature Conservation Act. The Barnacle Goose is no such species. On one hand, it has naturally extended its breeding range into Finland and is now, equally naturally, more and more often also seen in Lapland. On the other hand, our project does not interact with this process in any way since long term observations in Sweden prove that the foster parents never return to Lapland next year. They return to their former breeding area, usually to the same nest where they were caught. Also, they were under satellite control.

In a similar case in 2005, our goose breeder Pentti Alho was sued in 2005. The year before, we had released one family with Barnacle Geese as foster parents and LWfG goslings. By that time we were accused on the release of the LWfG goslings as alien/exotic species. The prosecution failed. This is important since there is a basic juridical principle: after a court decision has reached the legally binding status, you cannot prosecute repeatedly on the case which already was decided upon. The police inspection papers of the present case are now in the hands of the local prosecutor. She has promised to decide before midsummer 2010 if she will take the case into court. We have informed her that we welcome a quick decision before continuing nature conservation activities.

So absurd is the situation of nature conservation in Finland! We know who are responsible for this and the earlier (see the leading article) abnormal behaviour of the nature conservation officials. But it is hard to understand their motives.

An expedition to find (step) Mother Goose

Erkki Jaanu

I called Eero Peltonen. We decided not to loose time but travel to the place to inspect what has happened before the bird, or cadaver, would disappear. One way's driving to there is about 1100 km. Erkki Kellomäki provided us with the ARGOS coordinates of the last localization of the site. I rented a GPS and received a 5 minutes instruction course on how to use it. The first leg of my trip took me a few hundred kilometres to Viitasaari to join Eero in his summer home. Having spent the night there we started for Enontekiö, the commune in Lapland where the geese were released. On the way we had breakfast with pancakes and coffee and in southern Lapland, by the famous Tornio salmon river on the border with Sweden, we ate whitefish soup for lunch - the Kukkolankoski rapids are famous on their whitefish. At five o´clock we arrived in Enontekiö. On the way we had admired Eero´s brand new navigation set. We did not need it for navigation, however it gave us useful ''obs!'' signals which might have had something to do with our nice and quick ride

Once we parked, the GPS-device was turned on. It showed the distance of 1,8 km but we noticed the batteries are getting out. No problem. We ate a little of our sandwiches and the batteries were loaded in the car. So we started the hike. I read the map and compass and Eero followed on the GPS device how fast we were approaching the site given by satellites. First the terrain was bushy and wet and later in addition stony. Having climbed uphill for a while we reached the alpine birch woodland, easy to walk. We went a little bit too much to the right but that lead to an interesting observation: we stumbled on a World War Two gun station and old scrap which showed that the guns had been used on the site.

We took a corrected direction. The GPS showed the distance converging to zero. And finally it was zero. There we left our knapsacks and lifted a white plastic bag in a mountain birch as a beacon. We made observations around this zero point. I checked the stones and their surroundings without any findings. After a while we met with Eero in the zero point. Eero had found one of the colour rings and some feathers. Some of the feathers were on a sharp stone and some around it. Apparently a fox had tried to dig in the dead bird as mosses were thrown around. The feathers were bitten. A small piece of trachea was found, too.

No goose habitat!

Since the stone was not a place were a fox would eat its prey we concluded that also some bird of prey had taken part of this prey. We made further surveys and found two more rings. All three rings of one leg were found. The metal ring and one colour ring of the other leg were not found. No signs of a fox den were found. After all we decided that we cannot find the small dark gray radio transmitter without a special antenna. We decided to leave the place. We dicovered a smooth path downhill. At 22 o´clock we were back by the car. The sun was still shining. A fox was running along the road.

After a night in a tent we visited the releasing site. The water level was low. A young Hen Harrier rose from shore line stones and a duck family was hiding in the willow bushes.

Back home in the south (!) the waterfowl and the gulls are breeding only in places surrounded by water. Apparently the same holds true in the north, too. According to Åke Andersson the LWfG in Sweden breed on small islands. The Barnacle Goose is a good foster parent aggressively defending its young. This behaviour may be its weak point in areas where the Red Fox has become fairly common. This is the case in most of Lapland, where the Arctic Fox is close to extinction. Should we find a safer releasing site?


The Society




Korkeasaaren ystävät ry

Lämpöura Ky Pentti Tenhunen

Markprint Oy

Pirkanmaan lintutieteellinen yhdistys ry.

Hämeenlinnan Raatikuva Ky Heikki Löflund


Contact information

<> Technical update done Mar 10 2010