Royal Visitor celebrates new milestone in efforts to save Madagascar pochard

HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and President Rajaonarimampianina visited Antsohihy on 25th October 2017 in north-west Madagascar to open the Fotsimaso Interpretation Centre for the Madagascar pochard. This event marks the completion of a major phase in the programme, which has been to establish a secure and stable breeding programme so ducks can be released back to the wild.

With a wild population of less than 30 individuals, the Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard is one of the rarest birds on the planet. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 2006, surviving on a single lake.

Durrell, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Madagascan partners have set out to save this species and restore it back to the wild. The centre in Antsohihy was established using eggs gathered from wild nests and in 2016 the partners celebrated the hatching of the 100th duckling; which has tripled the global population.

The 25th October is a special day for the Madagascar pochard; it was exactly 8 years ago in 2009 that the first ducklings hatched from the eggs collected from the wild.

The next major phase of the programme is to release ducks back into the wild. A release site has been identified and the project partners have worked over the last three years to build a strong relationship with the communities using the lake.

As identified through an important research study, all of Madagascar’s wetlands are desperately degraded, missing much of their wildlife, especially the invertebrates that form the foundation of the food webs that support life. The partners are working hard with communities to ensure the release lake is protected and can be restored as a healthy wetland resource.

The ducks bred in the now completed breeding facilities in Antsohihy, will be released onto this lake and will provide a powerful example of how saving some of the most threatened species in the world can enable whole ecosystem recovery.