Scientist on Russian mission

Department of Conservation aviculturist Liz Brown with a newly-hatched kaki (black stilt) chick...
Department of Conservation aviculturist Liz Brown with a newly-hatched kaki (black stilt) chick from last year's breeding programme at Twizel. Photo by Department of Conservation.
A Twizel scientist who has been raising chicks in order to save the rare kaki-black stilt is now in a remote corner of Russia lending her expertise to an emergency programme for spoon-billed sandpipers facing extinction within a decade.

Department of Conservation aviculturist Liz Brown has raised more than 200 kaki chicks over the past two seasons at the Twizel Captive Breeding Centre and is now seconded to a joint internationally-funded programme by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Birds Russia to raise critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper chicks at Anadyr in northeast Russia, a port town on the Bering Sea with a population of about 12,000.

"This is definitely not a tourist destination," she said from the town, which took four days of flights to reach.

But she has met the chicks.

"They are so cute. Smaller than kaki with the most amazing bill. As adults, they will only weigh around 30 to 40g," she said.

Chicks and eggs were taken to Anadyr by ship from Meinypilgyno, in Russia. When the ship arrived in Anadyr, the number of chicks had increased from eight to 17.

They were collected over 10 weeks from the remote Russian tundra specifically for the breeding programme and Ms Brown will spend six weeks raising them, before returning to Twizel at the end of next month for the start of the kaki breeding season.

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