At the end of May 2023 г., after almost 6 years of coordinated efforts by 11 organisations and institutions from the five key Red-breasted Goose range countries, successfully ended the “Conservation of the Red-breasted Goose along it global flyway”, funded by the EU LIFE Program. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds was leading beneficiary of the project and implemented it in close cooperation with the Secretariat of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) and the AEWA Red-breasted Goose International Working Group.
The Red-breasted Goose is one of the most threatened goose species in the world, whose population has almost halved at the start of the new millennium. The main threats to it are habitat and landscape changes , illegal killing, changes in the agricultural practices and others. The Climate change models predict that the species could lose up to 70% of its breeding grounds in the high Arctic.
“LIFE for Safe Flight” as the short name of the project goes, is the most ambitious endeavour for the conservation of the species, which practically cover almost 100% of the global population of the Red-breasted Goose. As part of the project some 40 birds have been tagged with GPS transmitters and over 120 birds have been fitted with colour rings in an attempt to gather new data on the main threats for the species and mostly on the illegal killing. The data helped the work of our teams in the field and contributed to the concerted conservation efforts in various parts of the global range of the species.
In the wintering grounds were conducted some 50 roost counts and other surveys, of them 18 were coordinated counts between Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine, while 35 in total (the predominant part) were coordinated between Bulgaria and Romania. In Russia total of three aerial surveys have been completed and further 10 expeditions were carried out in Kazakhstan during migration period to assess the population numbers. The data from the surveys and tags helped to create a Key areas map for Romania and Kazakhstan contributing to the effective conservation and monitoring of the species.
The field expeditions in the autumn staging areas in Kazakhstan indicated that there is some stabilization of the population, but the population of 40-60,000 birds is far from the numbers registered in the 1990s.
The Project Team achieved significant results for the long-term safety of the Red-breasted Goose during its migration by securing the ban of spring hunting in key regions in Russia and in Kazakhstam, which will have a lasting positive result on the global population. At the same time in Romania and Kazakhstan were developed and adopted national species action plans to guide future conservation efforts, while Russian Ministry adopted key strategic document for endangered species and in Kazakhstan our project partner managing a key staging site for the global population adopted new zonation of the area and assigned 35% as a non-hunting zone!
The Project Team cooperated with hunting associations and experts and conducted targeted trainings for hunters and wardens and other experts directed to reducing the disturbance, illegal killing and poaching. During the hunting season were organized mutual hunting patrols that significantly contributed to reducing the poaching incidents. We conducted the first isolation by divertors of dangerous powerlines targeting a key area for the species in Bulgaria.
We created an interactive exhibit, which in accessible way depicted the ordeals and threats that the Red-breasted Goose confronts during its migration twice every year, crossing 6,000 km in each direction – one of the longest goose migrations in the World! Thanks to the targeted and variable communication activities of the Project, the information about it reached over 30 mln people in the range countries and beyond. The interactive exhibit has been visited by over 40,000 people in the four of range countries where it was displayed, being translated in the local national language. The project activities have been promoted in front of more than 4,000 people each year in Kalmykia during the famous Tulip Festival and associated events.
“This is probably the first project of LIFE program, that focuses on the whole population of a globally threatened species! At the same time, it is a very good example of what could be achieved by coordinated conservation actions for the implementation of an adopted International Species Action Plan, in this case an AEWA one. The results of the Project will have a lasting positive impact on the species population far beyond its lifespan!” – said the project manager and coordinator of the AEWA RbG IWG Dr. Nikolai Petkov.
The Layman’s report of the project presenting the key achievements of the project activities could be found HERE.