Madagascar pochard: Once thought extinct, the world’s rarest bird returned to the wild

The Madagascar pochard is living proof not all hope is lost.

Considered the world’s rarest bird, and thought to be extinct for 15 years, the duck has been saved by conservationists and released into the wild, thanks to the work of an international team of researchers.

And, an accidental discovery of the planet’s last remaining ducks of their kind.

First, 21 ducks spent a week protected in a floating aviary on Lake Sofia, a remote lake in northern Madagascar, officials announced Friday.

Scottish salmon-farming cages were converted into the world’s first floating aviaries. Photo: WWT/Durrell Wildlife

The birds adapted to the lake and were released earlier this month, quickly diving and flying, and mingling with other waterfowl.

“Ducklings hatched in October were transported 200 kilometres to the lake along a dirt road and reared in lakeside aviaries, then in early December, just before they were able to fly, moved into the floating aviaries,” according to WWT & Durrell Wildlife.

Nigel Jarrett, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust head of conservation breeding, said the project has been the works since 2006 when a small group of pochards were accidentally discovered.

“It takes a village to raise a child, so the old African proverb goes, but in this case it has taken a village to raise a duck,” Jarrett said in a statement.

“We have been preparing for this moment for over a decade. The logistics of working in a remote part of Madagascar – where access to the lakes by vehicle is only possible for three months a year – have been an enormous challenge, requiring us to come up with novel approaches,” he explained.

But life for them won’t be easy.

The wetlands across northern Madagascar have been destroyed or degraded due to human encroachment. Fishing and farming has damaged the environment.

The ducks may not survive if they leave the lake area.

That’s why conservationists have also been working to improve the condition of Lake Sofia.

“The restoration programme at Lake Sofia will encourage others in Madagascar to no longer look at the Island’s wetlands as lost causes,” Durrell’s head of birds, Dr. H. Glyn Young, said in a statement. “They may once again be centres of biodiversity while continuing to support communities of people who also depend on them.”

Paddling around Lake Sofia. Photo: WWT/Durrell

Sustainable fishing and farming techniques are be shared with local communities.

Government and local conservation groups have also been been given support to protect wetlands across the country.

After all, it’s not just ducks that depend on them.

The return Madagascar pochard is part of a plan to improve the overall environment in the region. Photo: WWT/Durrell

Photos WWT/Durrell Wildlife

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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