Ten Years In

Jonathan Slaght (L) and Sergei Avdeyuk (R) band a Blakiston’s fish owl. Photograph © Andrei Katkov

I’ve been working with Blakiston’s fish owls in Russia for ten years.

A decade of blizzards, floods, cramped quarters, and discovery; all to better understand this charismatic endangered species. The unwavering passion shown by my Russian colleagues Sergei Surmach and Sergei Avdeyuk has been nothing short of inspirational. These men have thrown everything at the owl–a true labor of love–working when there was time but not necessarily when there was money.

Together, the past decade that yielded a vast expansion of our scientific understanding of this salmon-eater and what we need to do to protect it.

Earlier this week, a peer-reviewed paper written by me and Sergei Surmach was released in Bird Conservation International, which is BirdLife International’s scientific journal. In many ways this paper is a culmination of our decade of work: a roadmap for Blakiston’s fish owl conservation in Russia.

Remarkably, between the time that paper was accepted (March 2015) and now (October 2015), several of the conservation recommendations we outline are already being enacted. One logging company in the region, OAO Amgu, is helping identify important fish owl habitat patches to exclude from human disturbance, and another company, TerneyLes, is blocking road access to some ecologically-sensitive riverine forest important for the owls.

This evolving conservation success is by no means all my doing—the Sergeis are taking lead on this and we’re receiving support from several international NGOs—but it is tremendously satisfying to see the direction that fish owl conservation in Russia has gone over the past ten years.

To read the paper itself, available through October 2015 free of charge at Bird Conservation International, follow this link.

To see some media attention this paper has received, read an article by New York Times bestselling author Vicki Croke here (The Wild Life at WBUR; Boston’s National Public Radio station), another from Rooster’s Report, and one in Russian from RIA Novosti, a major domestic news source in Russia.

I’m eager to see what the next ten years bring for Blakiston’s fish owls.

One Reply to “Ten Years In”

  1. What spectacular news! It’s very exciting to see logging companies aiding in identifying critical conservation areas and helping to close old logging roads. I hope there is public and notable recognition of their contributions in order to encourage further cooperation?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.