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A team of conservationists led by the staff at the Russian branch of Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Birds (WWT), has just launched a last-minute attempt to save one of the world's rarest birds - The Spoon-Billed Sandpiper.
With distinct spoon-shaped bills, reddish brown heads, necks and breasts interspersed with dark brown streaks, the tiny birds that measure a mere 14-16cm long, are stunning to look at.
They spend their summers foraging in the marshes of Russia's Arctic coast and winters migrating all the way to Burma and Bangladesh, almost 8,000 km away. Along the way, they stop in Japan, North Korea, China, Vietnam and Thailand.
Over the years, the population of the gorgeous birds has declined so sharply, that scientists believe that there are only 60 pairs left. The biggest reason for their decline is the loss of habitat - not just in Russia, but also, along the way on its long commute across the world. The little birds are also prone to accidently getting caught in traps set for bigger birds, especially in Burma and Bangladesh.
While conservationists have been aware of the rapidly declining population for some time now, this is the first attempt to breed the birds in captivity - And, it is not expected to be easy. The team plans to begin by looking for breeding pairs near the remote Chukoktka region in far east Russia.
They will also look for eggs, which will be placed in special incubation facilities, until they hatch. The chicks will then be transported for a short quarantine to the Moscow Zoo. Once they get a clean bill of health, they will be flown to a special breeding unit at WWT's headquarters in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, where the staff will rear and hopefully breed the birds.
The conservation team is also working with locals along the bird's migration route, by making them aware of the bird's plight and also, rewarding trappers if they release the birds live. While they have been a little slow in beginning the process, it may still not be too late to save this beautiful species. To read more and see how you can help go to: www.wwt.org.
Resources: wwt.org, guardian.co.uk