Portal to the Lesser White-fronted Goose

- by the Fennoscandian Lesser White-fronted Goose project

Literature type: Report

Language: Norwegian In norwegian with english abstract

External Link:


Full reference: Kvalnes, T., Follestad, A., Krange, O. & Tombre, I.M. 2023. Evaluering av norsk handlingsplan for dverggås. [Evaluation of the Norwegian action plan for the Lesser White-fronted Goose.] , NINA Rapport 2349. Norsk institutt for naturforskning.

Keywords: dverggås, national action plan, Norway, priority species, conservation actions


The lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) is a critically endangered species in Norway. Due to a rapid decline in population size since the 1940s the population is now at very low numbers. In the previous three generations, the population has several times consisted of less than 50 reproducing individuals. In addition, the Norwegian breeding population constitutes almost the entire remaining Fennoscandian population of the species. Because of this situation, the lesser white-fronted goose is classified as a priority species with its own regulations in Norway. BirdLife Norway (formerly the Norwegian Ornithological Association) has since 1985 monitored the species annually in Finnmark, northern Norway. Geese have been individually ringed with neck-bands and leg rings, including GPS-loggers, which have identified migration routes from Norway to their wintering areas in Greece. Commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency, NINA has conducted an overall evaluation of the implementation of the Norwegian action plan for the lesser white-fronted goose which was launched in 2009. The aims of this evaluation has been 1) to evaluate the achievements of the management goals, 2) to evaluate whether knowledge from the monitoring is organized and disseminated appropriately for practical use, 3) to evaluate how the financial structures and conservation measures have been organised, and 4) to provide input for further knowledge acquisition and implementation of actions. The evaluation was based on relevant published results, such as reports from BirdLife Norway, scientific articles, and other information developed in the project. Informants from various relevant stakeholder groups and end-users have been interviewed. Additionally, a so-called red to green method was applied to evaluate the need for future knowledge needs and management actions. Stopping the ongoing population decline by 2015 and a long-term increase of the population size to a target of 1000 individuals, were the main objectives of the action plan. The second objective has not yet been achieved. However, the earlier population decline has been stopped and the population have displayed a slight positive growth rate. Thus, that the first objective has been achieved. In our evaluation, the change in population growth rate is considered to be an effect of the overall measures which have been made to preserve the species. A revision of the action plan is recommended. New achievable objectives for population size should be implemented as steps on the way towards a viable population size. The red list criteria can be used to define objectives and aid the choice of measures. To reduce adult mortality and increase the reproductive success, several conservation measures have been implemented. No entry zones have been established at important staging sites, such as Valdakmyra in Porsanger municipality and Rørholmen in Alta municipality. Annual culling of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in and around the breeding area have been carried out to reduce egg and gosling predation. Bans on hunting for greylag geese (Anser anser) have been imposed in large parts of Finnmark to prevent accidental harvest of lesser white-fronted geese. Extensive international cooperation with Finland, Russia and other countries has been important. Cooperations have included efforts to monitor, reduce illegal hunting and secure important functional sites along the migration routes and in the wintering sites. The conservation measures are in general met with support from the informants. They express that most people are concerned with the conservation of the lesser white-fronted goose. Staff in nature management and at museums use the knowledge generated by the monitoring and various research projects to a large extent. However, there is a lack of knowledge about the conservation efforts among other users of the areas where staging and breeding sites for the lesser white-fronted goose are found. We also observed a need for more accessible dissemination of the knowledge which is generated. Some of the informants expressed that several stakeholders do not agree with the ban on hunting of greylag geese in local areas. The established boundaries for where the hunting ban should apply are especially considered problematic. Several stake-holders also claimed that hunter skills are underrated when the underlying assumption for this ban is that it is difficult for hunters to distinguish lesser white-fronted geese from greylag geese during the hunt. This evaluation recommends that also farmers and hunters are included in the dialogue involved in the management of the lesser white-fronted goose. Enhancing communication will facilitate discussions on potential changes that can be implemented to meet their needs while at the same time mitigating the risk of harming the geese. A discussion on adjusting the boarders of the hunting ban should be part of such a dialogue. Our evaluation indicates that much of the conservation effort carried out has been important and should be prolonged in the years ahead. In addition, some new objectives for the species and conservation measures are suggested. However, the lesser white-fronted goose has a long migration route across many countries. Thus, there is a limit to what can be achieved with unilateral national efforts in Norway. To ensure a high probability of success, it will be extremely important that international efforts are also prioritized. Moreover, the evaluation reveals some knowledge gaps that will be important to fill such that more precise conservation measures can be implemented and the effect of measures, such as red fox removal, can be evaluated in more detail. Internationally, it is particularly important to secure stop-over and wintering sites against illegal hunting, degradation and disturbance. Continued monitoring during wintering, along the migration route and at staging sites in Norway is essential to assess the effects of the conservation measures. Based on information from the interviews, it should also be considered whether a dialogue group should be established. With joint meetings among the representatives from nature management, participants in the conservation measures and other affected stakeholders. A forum is likely to improve communication, allow for exchange of experience and knowledge, and contribute to an increased understanding and acceptance of the conservation measures. Hence, it can contribute to achieving the management goals.

Literature type: Action Plan

Language: English


Full reference: Kazantzidis, S. & Nazirides, T. 1999. National action plan for the lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus Linnaeus, 1758). , WWF Greece Athens, Helenic Ornithological Society Athens & Society for the Protection of Prespa St Germanos (GRC). 36p.


The Lesser White-fronted Goose nests along a narrow zone of the tundra, from Scandinavia up to the Bering Strait. The global population of the species is estimated to be around 25,000 – 30,000 individuals, while the estimated total breeding population is 2,750- 4,600 pairs. The main breeding areas are found in central and eastern Siberia, whereas there is a small population in Scandinavia (50-60 pairs). The population that breeds in Scandinavia winters in the steppes of Hungary and in natural range fields or agricultural crops in the Balkans. The populations that breed in central Siberia winter at the coasts of the Black Sea and around the Caspian, while the population that breeds in eastern Siberia winters in China. In Greece, the Lesser White-fronted Goose was recorded for the first time in 1859 in Attica. In recent years, most references come from Thrace (mainly the Evros delta but also from Ismaris) and lake Kerkini. The greatest number ever recorded in Greece was at the Evros delta in 1963 (1,630 individuals). The greatest number recorded recently (winter 1998-1999) was a total of 71 individuals at lake Kerkini, lake Ismaris and the Evros delta. The Lesser White-fronted Goose nests on the ground, in hilly or upland, mainly open areas, from the end of March to early June. It lays 4-6 eggs, which it hatches for 25-28 days. The nestlings fledge at the age of 35-40 days. The breeding success (number of nestlings per pair) varies from 1.0 to 2.6. The Lesser White-fronted Goose is a herbivorous species. It feeds in flocks together with other species of geese, mainly on herbal species in range fields near wetlands or in agricultural crops. During the 20th century and in particular after 1950, the populations of the Lesser Whitefronted Goose dropped by 90% approximately. At the breeding sites the major problems faced by the species are the degradation of their habitats and disturbance. At the wintering sites the most important problems are the transformation of marshes and natural range land into crops and illegal hunting. In Greece the main problems that the species faces are disturbance (by activities such as uncontrolled eco-tourism, etc.), the damage or degradation of its feeding sites and illegal hunting. The Lesser White-fronted Goose is a protected species in Greece and its hunting is prohibited (as is the case for all geese). It is included in the Red Data Book of the Threatened Vertebrates of Greece, where it is characterised as “Endangered”. The aim of the National Action Plan is the conservation of the species and of its habitats, so that its population remains stable. Its objective is the intervention in four major orientations NATIONAL ACTION PLAN FOR THE LESSER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Anser erythropus) 2 which refer to: a) the required policy and legislation, b) the protection of the species and its habitats, c) the monitoring and research as well as d) raising information and awareness among wetland users and the competent bodies. The actions and activities proposed for the three wintering areas of the species in Greece are related to the needs and particularities of each area and are classified under the afore mentioned orientations.

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