Hunting in Myanmar is probably the main cause of the decline of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmeus
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1 April 10
Christoph Zöckler, Tony Htin Hla, Nigel Clark, Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Nicolay Yakushev, Suchart Daengphayon, Rob Robinson
ArcCona Consulting, 30 Eachard Road, Cambridge, UK.
The rapid decline of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper population has led to a series of expeditions to locate the species’ main wintering areas. Surveys conducted in Myanmar during 2008–2010 showed an estimated wintering population of over 200, which is probably more than half the world population. Within Myanmar, the key estuary is the Bay of Martaban. We found extensive evidence of the hunting of waders in all sites visited, mostly by the poorest people in each village. The majority of 26 bird-hunters questioned in 15 villages on the east side of the Bay of Martaban knew of Spoon-billed Sandpipers and most probably catch the species every year. Spoon-billed Sandpipers are not the hunters’ primary target but, along with other calidrids tend to be caught more frequently in the mist nets they use for other target species, such as Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva and Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata. It is likely that hunting in the wintering area is the major cause of the species’ decline, which may have been exacerbated by the fact that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s core wintering area happens to be an area of high hunting pressure. Urgent action is needed to find ways to give the local hunters economic alternatives to hunting. An awareness campaign will also help to persuade hunters to release Spoon-billed Sandpipers they catch. It is also vitally important to protect the habitats of the Bay of Martaban for its large waterbird populations. Without urgent conservation action we believe that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper will become extinct within 10–20 years.