The Critically Endangered Baer’s pochard population is estimated at less than 1000, making them rarer than giant pandas.
There are between 250 and 999 Baer’s pochard left in wild compared to 1864 giant pandas, according to the latest figures on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
Once prevalent across central and south east Asia, Baer’s pochard numbers suffered a serious decline from what is suspected to be major changes and degradation to their wetland habitat.
To address these issues, researchers from ten countries gathered at Hengshui Lake National Nature Reserve near Beijing in China and agreed the ‘Hengshui Declaration’ to save the Baer’s pochard from extinction in the wild.
Richard Hearn, Head of Monitoring at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Coordinator of the Baer’s Pochard Task Force, said:
“This workshop has been a resounding success and it has been truly heartening to hear
from so many people, from so many countries, who care about the future of this special duck. As well as helping hugely to shine a spotlight on its conservation needs, the workshop has also
provided a clear understanding of what we need to do next to help ensure its survival.”
During the workshop, scholars from Bangladesh, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Republic of Korea, Russia and Thailand heard from senior Chinese local and national government officials, academics and international experts. They discussed urgent conservation priorities including encouraging all range states to strengthen the protection of all sites supporting the duck and recognising the importance of Hengshui Lake for breeding, migrating and wintering Baer’s pochard.
Mr Yuan Bo, Director of Hengshui Lake National Nature Reserve, said:
“Hengshui Lake is the most important known site for Baer’s Pochard in the world. With
that great honour comes a great responsibility. At Hengshui Lake National Nature Reserve, we are doing all we can to ensure the site is managed in a way that allows our Baer’s Pochards to flourish, thereby helping to reverse the decline in the wild population of this beautiful duck”
Though several species of birds have become extinct in recent years – especially after being marginalised on islands – the Baer’s pochard is the first species established across a major continent to become Critically Endangered.
Hengshui Lake, around 150 miles southwest of Beijing, is the most important known site in the world for this duck despite its relatively close proximity to one of the largest cities in the world.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has 52 Baer’s pochard at its Wetland Centres across the UK which could potentially save the species in the future. They can be sighted at Slimbridge, Castle Espie, Martin Mere and Washington.
Captive collections can play an important part in conservation offering species a safety net while work begins to save it.