About the project
All activities of the Swedish Lesser Whitefronted Gosse project aims to decrease the threats to the wild population breeding in Sweden which include breeding in captivity to produce birds to further reinforce the wild flock and thereby strengthening the wild population. Further operations include measures to improve geese habitats and to reduce disturbance at sites which are used by Lesser White-fronted Geese. In addition, monitoring of the population and information activities are carried out.
Breeding area for the Lesser White-fronted Geese in Sweden. Photo: Lesser White-fronted Goose Project
Until early 1900'th century the Lesser White-fronted Goose was a rather common breeding bird in northern Sweden. But then the populations size was reduced drastically and as from early 1960´s there was a growing concern about the survival of the species. As a reaction of this fear, Lambart von Essen at the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management and his colleagues initiated a project in early 1980`s which included the breeding of geese in captivity for later release in the wild.
Lambart von Essen, founder of the Lesser White-fronted Goose Project, together with a brood of young Lesser White-fronted Geese, which are being released together with Barnacle Geese as foster parents. The picture is taken in the 1980´s.
The most important reasons for the decrease of the Lesser White-fronted Goose population are probably found along the migration route and in the wintering areas in Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Having this in mind, the project decided to use Barnacle Geese as foster parents. As this species use a western flyway, the young Lesser White-fronted Geese learned to migrate to wintering areas in primarily The Netherlands, which meant an increase in survival rate an probably the survival of the wild population.
In 1999, the project, as a consequence of the discovery that some of the captive breeding population were carrying genes from the Greater White-fronted Goose, introduced a moratorium in the release operations. This finding created great uncertainty as to what extend this genes maybe a threat to the wild population and it lead to a lengthy discussion about possible consequences.
Until 1999 a total number of 348 Lesser White-fronted Geese were released in the Swedish Lapland. The release and the use of a western flyway in combination worked out as planned and today (2012) the Swedish Lesser White-fronted Goose population is the only one in the world which is not decreasing. The population size in 2011 amounted to at least 15 breeding pairs and during the migration and in the wintering period up to 120 individuals can be seen.
A wild female Lesser White-fronted Goose with two goslings. The picture is taken in the breeding area in Sweden in 2011.
Since 2005, has created a new breeding population in captivity which is based on birds which are caught as young in Russia. This operation has been successful, and since 2010 young Lesser White-fronted Geese are once again being released in northern Sweden. The double purpose and long-term goal for this activity is to reduce possible genetic problems and to further strengthen the population with new individuals.
The work in the project is, since 2010, highly integrated in the national action plan for the Lesser White fronted Goose in Sweden. Many of the conservation actions in the projects is supported financially by the authorities in Sweden but most of the work is carried out by volunteers.