Plans and programmes for translocation/reintroduction of LWfG have been debated intensively for many years. The Fennoscandian LWfG conservation project has taken (past and present) a critical stand towards theses programmes for the LWfG for a number of reasons. The most frequently discussed questions are related to genetic disturbance (i.e. genetic composition of the stocks used for reintroduction) and manipulation of flyways. There are many reasons to be critical to both the suitability of the current manipulated population (in Sweden) and the sustainability of ongoing (Sweden) and planned (Germany) programs. Below are some of these reasons described.
NOTE: this page is under review and will be updated during autumn 2015 when a review of the translocation projects have been finalised. It should however be noted that the Swedish reintroduction project seems to be out of control with massive releases the last few years where birds spread out in all directions, not only following the already manipulated migration route to the Netherlands. Similar release attempts were earlier made in Finland and Norway, but these were abondoned when results showed it did not work. Another serious issue is also that the Swedes does not seem able to deal with their establised Barnacle Goose x Lesser-white-fronted Goose hybrid population.
Specifically, in addition to original hybrid origin, the Swedish reintroduced/restocked population was manipulated to change its wintering area by the use of Barnacle geese Branta leucopsis as foster parents. As a consequence this population now winters in areas that are not traditional wintering areas, contrary to unsubstantiated claims by reintroduction/restocking stake holders. Another negative side effect of this manipulation is the use of other undesired sites, such as city parks for staging and moulting. Current releases in Sweden of captive birds originating from wild caught Russian breeders do not alter the fact that the Swedish re-stocking project struggle with regular appearance of hybrids, also of LWfG x Barnacle Goose origin.
To assume that the release of new “pure” birds would swamp the existing hybrids in this population is naïve. This hybrid population has, contrary to wild LWfG seen in Fennoscandia and Russia, made the transition to feed on cultural habitats/ farmland especially duting winter in the Netherlands & Germany, a trait not shared by wild LWfG and Brent Goose Branta bernicla. Wild, natural populations of LWfG are habitat specialists, exclusively exploiting natural steppe habitat during winter.
Reintroduction projects are not given priority in the International Action Plan for the LWfG published by the Council of Europe in 2008, but are mentioned as a last resort if all other actions fail and only by following the IUCN criteria for translocation/re-introduction. Even the most critically endangered of all LWfG sub-populations, the Fennoscandian breeding population, has still a chance for recovery. One international document providing guidance for the introduction, along with the International Action Plan for LWfG, is the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) guidelines for reintroduction programmes. According to the IUCN guidelines (IUCN/SSC 2013), the captive stock used to restock the wild population should be genetically as close as possible to the wild population that was extirpated from the reintroduction area. This is not the case with the current captive stocks used (or planned to be used) in the LWfG reintroduction programmes in question. Also, according to the IUCN criteria, there should be no remnant wild population in the release area, to prevent spread of disease, social disruption and introduction of alien genes in the wild population. If the reintroduction programmes would be successful by establishing one or more new populations in Fennoscandia (as they naturally aim to), the reintroduced population would relatively soon get in contact with the wild population either on the breeding grounds or along the migration routes.
|First generation hybrid A.erythropus x B. leucopsis, Turku, Finland, 27 May 2008 © Kalle Rainio/Tarsiger.com. Also second generation hybrids have been found in Sweden. Pictures and discussions of these can be found at the Swedish report system for birds.|
In addition to the dubious genetic composition of the captive LWfG stocks, the Fennoscandian LWfG conservation project has stressed repeatedly, that in the present situation the conservation efforts to save the wild populations are very urgent. On the other hand, there is no urgency to pay much effort to – or implement new – reintroduction projects in the present situation, where the genetic suitability of the captive LWfG stocks for reintroduction is at best questionable. Resources spent on the reintroduction projects in the current situation can also be viewed as a waste of the time, effort and resources, that should be directed towards eliminating the threats such as excess hunting, poaching, habitat destruction in the struggle for rescuing the wild LWfG populations and their habitats.
At present the wild Fennoscandian population increase with >20% per year and as long the ongoing conservation efforts are successful, the Fennoscandian LWfG conservation project strongly warns against any reintroduction projects that may harm or jeopardize the small and vulnerable wild population of LWfG in Europe.
Lots of Pictures of hybrid birds in Sweden are to found in the Swedish observation system. Since 1991 these hybrid accounts for 14% of all records on Lesser White-fronted Goose in Sweden.
Sweden has published an National Action Plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose, but this does not distinguish between wild and reintroduced birds. The NAP mainly concerns the restocked/reintroduced population with a manipulated migration route.