Sonadia deep seaport a threat to spoon-billed sandpiper

The spoon-billed sandpiper, a critically endangered species of migratory birds, will face extinction losing their habitats if the government establish a deep seaport at the Sonadia Island, as planned, UNB reports.

“There are only about 200 pairs of the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpipers around the world right now while about 50 pairs of spoon-billed sandpipers was seen in Sonadia Island last winter,” birds expert of IUCN Bangladesh ABM Sarowar Alam Dipu told UNB.

spoon-billedsandpiperHe said this particular bird species breed in Russia and they travel to Sonadia Island in Cox’s Bazar during winter every year to avoid heavy cold and get a suitable habitat with plenty of food.

Sarowar Alam said that if the spoon-billed sandpipers flock in the island, they will see their habitat is lost due to construction of a deep seaport and other development activities. They will not be able to return home in Russia safely as the birds will not find sufficient food to store energy for flying a long distance.

“The malnourished birds will die during their return. If the habitats of the birds are destroyed, they will face extinction globally,” he said.

Sonadia is a small island of about 9 square kms off the Cox’s Bazar coast in Chittagong Division and a unique habitat of migratory shorebirds, including spoon-billed sandpiper.

Dr Tapan Kumar Dey, conservator of forest (Wildlife Circle), said the Sonadia Island is a habitat of the spoon-billed sandpiper and the forest department is always against the move of setting up a deep seaport in the island. “As a member of wildlife circle, I feel it.”

He said the Forest Department has a plan to bring the Sonadia Island under the marine protection. “I hope, the Sonadia will be announced as a marine protected area soon.”

The spoon-billed sandpiper is a migrant shorebird that breeds in the Russian Arctic centred on the coast of the Chukotsk Peninsula. It is known to winter in intertidal habitats in South-East and South Asia where the largest wintering concentrations have been recorded both historically and in recent years.

A survey, titled ‘the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus in Bangladesh and key future research and conservation recommendations’ in 2010 recorded a minimum of 49 spoon-billed sandpipers in the country — 25 at Sonadia, 23 at Damar Char and 1 at Teknaf.

Bangladesh retains the record for the highest single count of spoon-billed sandpipers — 202 birds in 1989 from Moulvir Char, a small island in the vast lower Meghna Delta.

Habitat loss

The World Migratory Bird Day will be observed across the world on 10-11 May aiming to raise awareness and interest in migratory birds and their conservation while the flocks of migratory birds have rapidly declined in Bangladesh due to loss of their habitats.

Apart from local interferences, climate change factors and sea level rise also severely affect bird habitats, Sarolwar Alam said.

Identifying the habitat loss and habitat degradation as the major threats to the conservation of migratory birds, the IUCN bird specialist said there are 34 places, including Sonadia Island, Tanguar Hoar and Sundarbans, in the country are suitable for the migratory birds. “But the environment of the places is derogating day by day.”

Blaming the government for not taking effective steps to protect the places, he said the government has already announced many ecologically critical areas (ECAs), but such areas are found only on paper.

Dr Tapan Dey said the Department of Environment (DoE) announces the ECAs, but these have no legal standing in absence of any proper action plan to manage the areas.

Sarowar Alam said the wildlife, including birds, are disappearing from the country due to lack of management to the ecologically critical areas.


The migratory birds usually migrate from the Himalayas and faraway places like Siberia to relatively warmer swampy wetlands, low-lying areas and coastal belt of Bangladesh to escape freezing cold during winter.