BirdLife Norway is an organisation with just more than 9 000 members, which has developed a hard and very critical attitude against Swedish Lesser White-fronted Geese (LWfG) and the work carried out by the Swedish LWfG Project. The latest move by the organisation is the publication of a report, said to present a critical evaluation of LWfG releases in the Fennoscandian region (Aarvak, T., Øien, I.J. & Shimmings, P. 2016. A critical review of Lesser White-fronted Goose release projects. NOF‐report 2016‐6). To review a project it is necessary to make a thorough analyses of all available data and such work has to be done in a dialog with the project concerned. During the preparation of the Norwegian report, the authors have neither asked for data or a dialog with our project, in spite of the fact that activities in Sweden are the main focus for the review.
The conclusion in the report is – as could be expected – a recommendation to terminate all conservation activities that will benefit the LWfG population in Sweden. Instead all efforts should be directed to work carried out by BirdLife Norway. The Norwegian policy also includes a total removal of the wild Swedish population to make an expansion of the Norwegian population possible into Sweden. It should be noted that still after 20 years work and several million Swedish Crowns from EU, no re-establishment of a population has taken place in Finland.
The quality of the report
The report is well-written in impeccable English and contains a lot of information. The time and effort spent on this document is impressing and some passages include text worth considering. But positive parts are detracted by the large amounts of inaccuracies and the authors´ ambition to defame every steps taken previously and present in Sweden with regard to LWfG conservation. Out of 55 figures presented, only 33 are being commented upon, meaning that about 40% of the figures are used as paddings. Some of the shortcomings in the report can probably be explained by the fact that no contact at all has been taken with the Swedish LWfG Project or, according to the information we have, BirdLife Sweden nor the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Other defects are linked to the disinclination demonstrated by the authors to accept facts that are contrary to their own opinion. Therefore, the report does not meet the quality which is needed for a review. Furthermore, the report is not peer-reviewed by any independent expert or organisation.
An analysis of the Norwegian document disclose more than 80 statements which are either false or can be challenged. Three concrete samples from the long list is given below. More examples are found here.
|There is a skewed sex ration among released birds and nearly all (maybe only) males are being released.
||To sex young birds are difficult, but there is nothing that indicates a skewed sex ration. The sex ratio of birds released in 2016 was 54% males, 46% females
|A population of wintering LWfG has been established in Sweden as a result of releases made since 2010.
||During January-February 2010-2016 only one (1) single LWfG have been seen wintering in Sweden (January 2016).
|LWfG releases in Sweden since 2010 does not contribute to the wild Swedish population
||In LWfG flocks today approximately 40% of the birds have been previously released. Among 6 known successful breeding pairs in Sweden 2016, two females previously released were included.
Challenging and omitting facts and documents
An common trait in the Norwegian report is to challenge established facts as well as conclusions and recommendations made by independent expertise. In addition, important document are omitted when the content is not in line with the Norwegian policy. Two examples are given below:
- IUCN classifies the Swedish population as reinforced, wild and native. This is not accepted by BirdLife Norway, hence the classification is rejected. However, it is likely that IUCN is more able to interpret its own guidelines than BirdLife Norway.
- BirdLife International as well as IUCN have published the Red List of threatened birds in 2015. In spite of the fact that the status of the Swedish population is discussed throughout the Norwegian document, it is not mentioned that the population is listed as Critically Endangered as this would mean acknowledgment of the population.
The report is presented as a “critical review” of LWfG releases in Sweden, but the document contains few analyses. One reason for this is the lack of basic data and information that has never been obtained or asked for. Only parts of the figures included in the document are commented upon. Reference is only made to two of the four tables. The link between information given and conclusions drawn is often weak and sometimes missing.
An analysis of the content indicates that the main purpose of the compilation has not been a serious review. Instead, the ambition of the authors have been to backstab conservation work being carried out by authorities and organisations in Sweden. Therefore, it is clear that the document is founded on ideology, in which all facts speaking in favour of continued conservation efforts benefitting the Swedish LWfG population is rejected or left out. What might have been a valuable contribution to increased knowledge about a threatened species, has instead become a biased presentation which deserves very little attention.
The conflict between the Norwegian and Swedish project
We have tried to describe the main criticism found in the report and meet the argument from our perspective. For those who would like to have more information, we recommend the following links, where arguments are put in a scientific context. The english text comes below the swedish version
- The genetics in the Swedish LWfG-population
- The flyway of Swedish LWfG
- LWfG x Barnacle Goose hybrids
- Food preference of Swedish LWfG
- The shyness of Swedish LWfG
- Is the Swedish LWfG population reinforced or reintroduced?