Saving the world’s rarest duck

It is at Lake Sofia where we hope to make a home for the Madagascar pochard, the world’s most endangered duck.

It is at Lake Sofia where we hope to make a home for the Madagascar pochard, the world’s most endangered duck.

Once found right across Madagascar’s central plateau it now teeters on the brink of extinction – just one example of the wildlife under threat. So, when a small group were discovered on a remote lake in northern Madagascar, we knew we had to act fast.

WWT experts quickly set up an emergency conservation breeding programme and it’s been so successful, the captive population has effectively quadrupled the world population.

Pioneering floating aviary

We’d never tried to release a diving duck into a new habitat before. So we used innovative floating aviaries to release 21 Madagascar pochards onto Lake Sofia. It’s an historic moment over 10 years in the making, and the work doesn't stop here. Having given them the best chance of survival in this challenging landscape, we’ll be closely monitoring their progress.

Our work in Madagascar so far...

2006

25 Madagascar pochards are found surviving on a remote lake in the north of the island that we suspect is too deep for ducklings to feed.

2008

Surveys show only 6 females survive at the lake.

2009

Eggs are brought into captivity to protect against extinction.

2011

We scour the island for a suitable release site and choose to focus our efforts on Lake Sofia. The site has potential, but we have many issues to address before the lake can be a suitable home for the pochards.

2012

We conduct surveys to understand the needs of the ten thousand people that live around and rely on Lake Sofia for water, irrigation, fish, materials and other resources.

2014

We receive enthusiastic support from authorities, communities, and a development agency to improve the lake, addressing poverty and environmental damage. Education plans are developed to build awareness of and pride in their natural surroundings.

2017

We invented the world’s first floating aviary and tested it at Slimbridge using Baer’s pochards and tufted ducks, close cousins of the Madagascar pochard.

2018

July - Floating aviaries are installed in Madagascar ahead of planned release.

2018

October - Pochards transported to lakeside where they’re homed in temporary aviaries and trained.

2018

December - First chicks released onto Lake Sofia.

Partners and funders

This is a collaborative project of WWT, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund, Asity Madagascar, and the Government of Madagascar.

To date the project 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, Synchronicity Earth, British Airways Communities & Conservation Programme (BACC), WWT and Durrell members and many generous individuals.