Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Seals and Spoons

 Grey seal

Spoonbill sandpiper

I have come across 2 inspiring things in the last few days - one is the attempt to save the spoonbill sandpiper from extinction, the other is a lovely lady in Cornwall who is doing her utmost for grey seals.  What beautiful and iconic creatures these are (I meant the seals here but Sue is a lovely creature too!)

The spoonbill sandpiper is on the verge of extinction and there are less than 100 breeding pairs left.  They fly between eastern Russia (where they breed) and Burma/Bangladesh (where they over-winter) and stop over at wetlands throughout Asia on the way.  As so much wetland has now been turned into industry and reclaimed for agriculture these vital refueling grounds are disappearing. And if they do make it to their wintering grounds they are slaughtered by hunters - not necessarily deliberately, often as by-catch.  To hear more go to the Radio 4 website for Saving Species where this story was featured this week.

The situation is so critical that an expedition set out earlier this year to collect eggs from the breeding grounds, incubate them, then bring the 13 chicks to Slimbridge in Gloucestershire where they will hopefully breed a protected population that can one day be returned to the wild.

What I love about this project is the fact we still care enough to go to so much trouble to save them.  Thank God we do.  A world without this beautiful bird would be an impoverished world indeed.

Grey seals are reasonably common along the coast of Cornwall but amazingly very rare worldwide.  They are our largest mammal and always a major attraction, but it is surprising how little we know about them - or how little protection they get.  Sue Sayer is an inspirational lady who gave up her job to find out more about seals and to spread the word about understanding and protecting them.  I interviewed her recently for a Radio 4 series I am making on naturalists (A Life With...) to be broadcast over a week between March 19th and 23rd 2012.  I met 4 other wonderful people making this series and I'll do a special blog about it nearer the time.

Sue has just written a book about her findings, Seal Secrets, which will be published in March.  Look at the seal group  website for more details about the work Sue and the other members of the group are doing - they are great.

Keep up the good work WWT and Sue and all the others - the natural world needs you.

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