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Sociable Lapwings tracked to Sudan

Satellite tagging adds to understanding

Two Sociable Lapwings Vanellus gregarius, satellite tagged in Kazakhstan last summer, have flown more than 5,000 miles to central Sudan, where they have spent the winter.

Satellite tagging is adding rapidly to our understanding of the distribution of this Critically Endangered species outside the breeding season.

The birds left Korgalzhin in central Kazakhstan on August 3, 2007 and arrived at Viranşehir, Turkey around October 8. They joined a flock of over 3000 birds –the largest assembly of the species recorded in over a century –before leaving Turkey in late October, arriving in Sudan on November 3.The last sighting of Sociable Lapwings so far south in Africa was by Dr Mark Avery of the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), who saw a small flock in Kenya 20 years ago.

The tagging project began last year when scientists from the RSPB and Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) fitted satellite-tracking devices to three birds on their breeding grounds on the barren steppe expanses of central Kazakhstan.

Conservationists from the Sudanese Wildlife Society, part-funded by the UK government’s Darwin Initiative, will try to locate the Sudanese birds, count them and find out more about the sites they are using.Ibrahim Hashim, a Research Professor at the Sudanese Wildlife Society, said: "Finding these birds will not be easy because they are in a remote region where few people go. But that will benefit them because it means they should suffer little disturbance."

Dr Rob Sheldon, an ecologist with the RSPB, said: "The more we know, the easier it will be to improve their protection and help them increase their numbers."

Maxim Koshkin of Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK) added that better understanding of the migration and wintering patterns of this Critically Endangered species will enable conservations to identify sites which need to be protected, to bring Sociable Lapwing back from the brink of extinction.

"We feel privileged to have these birds in Sudan and are very happy that we can play a part in increasing their numbers," said Professor Ibrahim Hashim. "These birds are now being protected on their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan and we hope very much to give them equal protection in Sudan."

4th July 2014