Saving the Madagascar Pochard – the World’s Most Endangered Duck
Until recently, the Madagascar Pochard was believed extinct, the last sighting having been in 1991.
In November 2006, however, staff from the Peregrine Fund (TPF), rediscovered the species on a small lake ‘the red lake’ near Bemanevika, 300 km north of the last known site, with 20 mature birds and possibly nine ducklings were reported at the end of 2006.
Surveys in the region have so far failed to locate birds at other sites, and it appears that the entire world population is restricted to a single site.
Monitoring at the site in 2008 revealed that although clutches and ducklings were produced, none survived beyond a couple of weeks. There is an urgent need for emergency measures to save this species.
- To save the Madagascar pochard which was, until recently, thought to be extinct
- To work with local people to ensure that their livelihood needs are incorporated into conservation activities
WWT, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, TPF and the Madagascar Government have initiated a project to save this species, with the long-term aim of securing the existing population and establishing an additional viable population in the wild.
The project partners planned to establish an ex situ population in Madagascar in 2010, to act as a ‘safety net’, greatly reducing the risk of extinction. Birds held ex situ will form part of a conservation-breeding programme to provide birds for release into the wild at new sites.
However, when project staff visited the red lake in July 2009, less than 20 birds with only six females were observed, and a decision was taken to advance the project, and launch an emergency rescue plan in autumn 2009.
Despite numerous logistical difficulties this proved successful, and at the end of 2009 three clutches had been successfully hatched with over 20 ducklings reared and held in temporary accommodation in advance of the construction of a conservation breeding centre in 2010.
Project staff maintain a constant presence at the red lake to ensure protection of the birds and the lakes and surrounding forest have been submitted for designation as a protected area.
Funding is being sought for a wetland inventory of this remote part of Madagascar to identify suitable sites for captive-bred birds to be released into the wild.
Due to wide scale wetland degradation site restoration is likely to be necessary prior to re-introduction, and will bring benefits for a wide range of other wildlife, much of which is also threatened or endemic.
The conservation of this species necessitates a long-term commitment and a wide range of activities. These will be determined using an action planning approach, involving all key stakeholders and particularly local villagers, to ensure that livelihood needs are incorporated into relevant activities.
Saving the Madagascar pochard has been generously supported by: the Darwin Initiative, Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa, Fota Wildlife Park, BBC Wildlife Fund, a private donor, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Aviornis UK, WWT and Durrell members.