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Baby boom: 18 of the world’s rarest duck born

The global population of one of the world’s rarest birds just increased 43 percent.

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is reporting that 18 Madagascar pochards — the world’s rarest duck — hatched and are now being reared at a facility in Madagascar. The breeding program is a joint effort between Durrell, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), the Peregrine Fund, Asity Madagascar and the Government of Madagascar.

The Madagascar pochard (Aythya innotata) was thought to be extinct until 200 when a population of 22 birds was discovered on Lake Matsaborimena in northern Madagascar. Conservationists immediately set up a captive breeding program to protect the species against a catastrophic event like a disease outbreak or pollution. They hope to eventually re-introduce captive-bred ducklings into more suitable habitats in the wild.

Madagascar pochard. Image courtesy of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

“Although Lake Matsaborimena is the last hiding place for the ducks, it is far from ideal as a habitat. Our initial investigations suggest there is too little food and this may be leading to the low survival of the ducklings; in effect, they are starving to death,” said Peter Cranswick, Head of Species Recovery at WWT, in a statement.

“We have identified some lakes where the physical conditions are potentially right for the pochard, but success will depend on support of the local community. Fishing is thought to be one factor that led to the pochard’s decline but many rural Malagasy people earn their livelihood from fishing. The challenge is to find a solution that helps both the people and the birds.”

Durrell is now raising funds for the Madagascar porchard program.

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