The Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus is ranked as globally threatened, being recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN and ranked by BirdLife International as ‘SPEC 1’ within Europe, denoting a European species of global conservation concern. It is listed in Annex 1 of the European Council Directive on the conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC 1979, 2009/147/EC 2009), in Column A of the Action Plan under the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) and in Annex II ‘Strictly protected species’ of the Bern Convention.
Lesser white-fronted geese are long-distance Palearctic migrants, currently breeding discontinuously in the sub-arctic zone from northern Fennoscandia to eastern Siberia. Their wintering and staging areas as well as migration routes are only partially known. The global population of the Lesser White-fronted Goose has declined rapidly since the middle of the 20th century, and the current world population estimate counts some 20-25 thousand individuals. The decrease in numbers has led to a fragmentation of the breeding range.
At present the Lesser White-fronted Goose breeds in six more or less discrete geographical areas (see for example Morozov & Syroechovski 2002):
Outside Fennoscandia, the sizes of populations in other breeding areas are insufficiently known. Although the serious decline in Fennoscandia has been known for some time, it is only recently that information has been available from the populations in the most important breeding areas in Russia. There are several unknown breeding areas in northern Russia, as well as areas that have not been investigated thoroughly in recent times, including Gydan, Taymyr, large parts of Yakutioa and Chukotka.
Today three geographical subpopulations are recognized that are surviving components of the species’ formerly extensive breeding range: the Fennoscandian population breeding in the Nordic countries and the Kola Peninsula of north-western most Russia, the Western main population nesting in northern Russia to the west of the Taimyr Peninsula and the Eastern main population nesting from the Taimyr Peninsula eastwards and wintering in China. The three subpopulations have all shown dramatic declines in recent decades. Fortunately, at least the Eastern main popualtion seems to have a positive development recently.
In addition, Sweden re-introduced/restocked a Lesser White-fronted Goose population in the early 1980s by releasing captive-bred geese together with Barnacle Goose foster parents. The Swedish population follows a modified flyway to wintering grounds in the Netherlands.
Below is a simple animation of the data in the database by April 2014 by month for the Fennoscandian and Western main popualtions.