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Emilia – the Story of a Red-breasted Goose

To mark World Migratory Bird Day on 10 October, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria) and AEWA Red-breasted Goose International Working Group (AEWA RbG IWG) are presenting a new video, telling the story of Emilia, a satellite tagged Red-breasted Goose. 

Emilia was fitted with a satellite tag as part of the “LIFE for Safe Flight” project in 2019 while in Kazakhstan on her migration north towards her breeding grounds in the Russian Arctic.  Her long stay there suggested that she and her mate had successfully bred. Using the GPS data generated by the tag, the project team could follow Emilia’s movements as she started her migration back through Kazakhstan and Ukraine to her wintering grounds in Romania.  

The story unfortunately does not have a happy end as Emilia like too many other Red-breasted Geese, which are strictly protected throughout their range, fell victim to illegal hunting or was mistaken for a huntable species.

The “LIFE for Safe Flight” project works to enhance and improve conservation and protection for the species along its global flyway.  By working on improving legislation, enforcement and site management, establishing patrol systems, gathering more data, raising awareness of hunters in the five key countries of the Red-breasted Geese’s range, it is hoped that illegal killing can be reduced with beneficial results for the conservation status of the species.

The globally threatened Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) is an AEWA priority species and the related AEWA International Single Species Action Plan, which is the internationally agreed conservation framework for the species, was adopted at the 5th Meeting of the AEWA Parties in 2012.

The AEWA RbG IWG brings together national government representatives, experts and key stakeholders from all five principle Range States (the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria) to discuss implementation of the Action Plan, conservation action and priorities for fundraising. Coordination of the AEWA RbG IWG is provided by the BSPB.

Although the species is protected by law throughout its range, illegal killing remains one of the main threats to the Red-breasted Goose. This includes accidental harvest as well as deliberate poaching. Consequently, many of the conservation activities focus on engaging with local hunting communities throughout the flyway in order to raise awareness and foster more sustainable hunting practices in general, e.g. not shooting when it is too dark to correctly distinguish between huntable and non-huntable species. 

As illegal killing is also one of the main threats to the globally threatened Lesser White-fronted Goose – another AEWA priority species – and the birds use parts of the same flyway, there is frequent collaboration between the two AEWA International Species Working Groups.

You can find out more about the AEWA RbG IWG here.