Rated as possibly the world’s rarest and most endangered bird, the Madagascar Pochard population has just increased by 30% with the hatching of 18 chicks at a specially built captive breeding centre in Antsohihy, Madagascar. Incredibly, this brings the entire world population to a mere 60 birds!
Led by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the goal of the captive breeding programme is to help save these birds from extinction. In fact, the pochard was previously thought to already be extinct until their rediscovery in 2006, when 22 birds were found at Lake Matsaborimena in northern Madagascar, the only site where they are now known to exist. After this fortuitous discovery, the WWT and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust began an emergency program with the intention of hopefully rescuing these critically endangered birds from a second “extinction”. They therefore collected 24 eggs from lakeside nests, which were subsequently hatched in a hotel bathroom while awaiting the final preparation of the captive breeding centre. The latest batch of chicks are descended from these initial hatchlings and symbolize the hopes of all those intrepid conservationists whose efforts and vision they now so poignantly represent.