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Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard population has quadrupled

28/03/2013 14:53:45 birds/2012_december/madagascar_pochard_chicks Population has reached 80 birds

March 2013. The world's population of the Madagascar pochard has almost quadrupled thanks to the conservation efforts of Durrell and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). This phenomenal success story will help to secure the population of this Critically Endangered duck.

20 pochards reared this season
Twenty Madagascar pochards have successfully been hatched and reared this breeding season, bringing the world population of this species to around 80 birds.

To date, 38 ducklings have successfully been reared in the specially developed breeding centre at Antsohihy, Madagascar, since the captive breeding programme commenced in 2009.

Building and running a breeding centre for this species in a rural town in Madagascar is a real challenge for the field teams. Clean water and electricity supplies in the area are unpredictable but thanks to contingency measures such as water storage tanks and generators; coupled with the hard work and commitment of the team, many of the everyday practical issues surrounding the project have been overcome.

The pochard, a medium-sized
diving duck, was feared extinct by
the late 1990s but it was 
rediscovered in 2006 when
biologists from The Peregrine Fund,
who were scouting for a threatened
bird of prey, the Madagascar
Harrier, observed 20 adult
pochards living on a single
lake in northern Madagascar.    
Genetic management
Importantly during this, the second breeding season, the number of enclosures at the centre was increased meaning that staff could pair up specific single males and females, thus providing vital information on genetic management for the species.


Commenting on the breeding success Glyn Young, Conservation Biologist at Durrell, said "This latest batch of healthy ducklings provides us with another step forward in saving the pochard from extinction. Genetic management allows us to make the best use of a limited number of wild birds and to ensure the maximum health of the vital conservation population necessary for the survival of this duck."

Rediscovered in 2006
The Madagascar pochard was thought to have become extinct in the late 1990s, but was rediscovered in 2006, when conservationists on an expedition spotted just 22 birds at a single site - Lake Matsaborimena, in northern Madagascar.

Peter Cranswick, Head of Species Recovery at WWT said, "The 58 Madagascar pochards in the captive breeding centre provide a safety net for the population if the tiny wild population were to go extinct. We are now conducting detailed research in Madagascar to determine the species' critical needs and to identify possible sites for future reintroductions"

Developments and enhancements are now underway at the Antsohihy centre in preparation for the next breeding season for the captive ducks.

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