A Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor injured by fishing line and a fishing lure was found!
This is the 4th record of an injured Black-faced Spoonbill in Tatara River (Fukuoka) since 2003.
The Globally Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor is confined to East Asia, and based on the international census in 2010 has a world population of only 1800. Thus, the Black-faced Spoonbill is recognized as a global conservation priority. This species migrates between breeding sites in the Republic of Korea, DPRK, and Russia and wintering sites mostly in south China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan, using stop-over sites along the migration route. Hakata Bay in the central area of Fukuoka Prefecture, located in the northern part of Kyushu, Japan, is an important stop-over and wintering site, and 20-40 Black-faced Spoonbills winter every year in this area. Within Hakata Bay, the Tatara River is an especially good foraging and roosting site for the Black-faced Spoonbill. This indicates the richness of biological diversity in this area.
However, the Tatara River is also well known as a fishing spot visited by many people. This is, of course, one aspect of Nature’s richness in this area. On the other hand, some visitors discard unwanted fishing tackle into the river and along the riverside. As a result, every month many birds are injured by fishing lines, hooks, and lures. Black-faced Spoonbills must also face this problem, and three injured Black-faced Spoonbills have been found in this area between 2003 and 2010.
Another accident occurred and a fourth injured Black-faced Spoonbill was found in the Tatara River, Hakata Bay, on November 13th, 2011. This individual, which appears to have been an adult male, appeared in the Tatara River around late October. He was foraging with other Black-faced Spoonbills every day. In early November, a wide range of fish species increases in number there. Black-faced Spoonbills forage by moving along the water’s edge. It is so unfortunate that their method of foraging can expose them to injuries from discarded fishing tackle.
Removing the fishing lure or hook from their bills is the only way to rescue these birds. However, it is a very difficult a procedure, because rocket nets and other widely used tools are restricted by law in this area.
Furthermore, Black-faced Spoonbills move between several sites frequently, so setting a trap is an impractical method. For a quick and safe method of capture, unfortunately, we have no other choice but to wait a long time until the bird can no longer fly.
Our NPO members had been watching the injured Black-faced Spoonbill over a period of 50 hours. On November 14th and 15th, we tried capturing him with a hand net, unsuccessfully. At noon on November 16th, the Black-faced Spoonbill did not appear at the Tatara River. Later, he was found in Kayoicho Park, which is located inland from the Tatara River. Why was he found in such an area? Perhaps, the unfortunate spoonbill flew inland for foraging, but couldn’t return to the Tatara River. We quickly went to Kayoicho Park, and we talked with Kasuya Town officials and others about capturing the injured bird. He was found easily. Our big chance had come. We were able to capture the injured Black-faced Spoonbill, but four days had passed since he was first found. We quickly carried him to the veterinary clinic at the Fukuoka City Zoo, where treatment and medications were given to him. The veterinarian said that his weight was below 1000g, so death was possible. Clearly, because of his injured bill he had been unable to eat for a long time.
Unfortunately, he died on November 24th. Almost an entire week had passed since his capture. At the Tatara River, this is the fourth recorded instance of an injured Black-faced Spoonbill. The primary cause of death is unknown, but the veterinarian suggested extreme physical collapse could be one of the main reasons. If this is true, it means that we should do such captures much, much sooner. Four days had passed, and a fatal condition had already taken hold. We must discuss how we can best deal with this problem in the future.
After the accident, some people began to recognize how serious the problem is, and some even began to take action. On November 23rd, one group of fishermen did a river cleanup at the Tatara River. One of them said, “Although this is just a small effort, we want to continue working with your NPO in this cleanup.”
What we should do to prevent tragic accidents like this?
One might suggest that establishing protected areas is essential for conservation. However, Human-Wildlife conflict often cannot be resolved simply by separating the two. Actually, constructing a protected area is very difficult in urban areas, especially in highly developed cities. The natural environment is fragmented into small areas already, and land costs and maintenance costs are very expensive. In facing such a situation, however, Black-faced spoonbills can adjust and change their behavior with environmental changes in Hakata Bay. In particular, several small habitats are significant for spoonbill conservation in Hakata Bay, so it is not just one area that is important. This fact means we must emphasize the importance of Human-Wildlife coexistence, and also emphasize the importance of CEPA (Communication, Education and Public Awareness) efforts. We believe CEPA is one idea for resolving this problem here. Of course, it will be a very long and difficult journey to success. However, we have seen first-hand how effective CEPA can be, when based on dedicated long-term efforts. In our next article, we would like to introduce our successful actions and achievements relating to spoonbills!
Article and Photos by NPO Fukuoka Wetland Research and Conservation Group. Written by Tomida Hiroshi. Acknowledgment; Mrs. Susan Pugh and Mr. Scott Pugh contributed to writing of the article.