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|Madagascar Pochard, Captive Breeding Program, Madagascar|
|Former range (in red)|
The Madagascar Pochard (Aythya innotata) is an extremely rare diving duck of the genus Aythya. Endemic to the island of Madagascar, this species was once mostly found around Lake Alaotra. Thought to be extinct in the late 1990s, individuals of the species were rediscovered at Lake Matsaborimena in 2006. As of March 2013, the population was around 80 individuals.
The Pochard is endemic to Madagascar, and its presence there is very narrowly dispersed. Historically, the species enjoyed a healthy population size in the basin of Lake Alaotra, the largest lake in the country. The lake has a rich diversity of animal species, including many on the endangered species list. The lake's shallow freshwater and its surrounding marshes and wet grasslands provide a thriving habitat for wetland birds. These qualities also make the lake an ideal for humans. Lake Alaotra serves as the center for one of Madagascar's main rice producing regions. As a result, this habitat comes under frequent human disturbance. Although this lake once served as the Madagascar Pochard's primary habitat, the duck has since disappeared from the lake and can only be found in surrounding areas in critically low numbers. Fossil evidence shows that the Pochard once inhabited Reunion Island.
Habitat and ecology
Prior to the Pochard's population decline, it inhabited shallow, freshwater lakes and marshes near large areas of open water and dense vegetation. The site of rediscovery was slightly different than its typical habitat, because they were found near a volcanic lake and outside of the water in the limited vegetation. The vegetation was thought to have been their nesting site. The ducks are very rarely found in flocks and often pair off when moving. They also do not associate with any other species. The duck feeds on benthic invertebrates and aquatic plants and seeds that it gets by diving frequently in the nearby shallow waters. The duck can stay submerged for up to two minutes. The water creates the perfect environment for the benthic invertebrates and aquatic plants to grow making it a necessity to live by. It is believed that the birds lay their eggs in the vegetation surrounding the lakes, usually about 6–10 eggs at a time. The nesting season has been observed from July to January. The vegetation allows for the perfect environment and source of nutrients for the eggs to develop and hatch within a reasonable amount of time.
Threats and decline
Based on the accounts written by Webb and Delacour's in the 1920s and 1930s it seemed that the bird was still relatively common at Lake Alaotra. The duck probably started to decline dramatically sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The cause of decline was the introduction of numerous fish species in the lake that killed most of the pochard chicks and damaged nesting sites. Adult birds are also likely to have become victims of introduced fishes. Rice cultivation, cattle grazing on the shores, burning of shore vegetation, introduced mammals (rats), gill-net fishing and hunting are all factors that led to the duck's disappearance from the lake. The last record of multiple birds at Lake Alaotra is from 9 June 1960 when a small flock of about 20 birds was spotted on the lake. Despite the rarity of the species in 1960, a male was shot, and the specimen is now held by the Zoological Museum Amsterdam. There is a very dubious report of a sighting made outside Antananarivo in 1970.
Prior to a rediscovery in 2006, the last confirmed sighting of the species was at Lake Alaotra on the Central Plateau of Madagascar in 1991. The single male then encountered was captured and kept in the Antananarivo Botanical Gardens until its death one year later. Intensive searches and publicity campaigns in 1989–1990, 1993–1994 and 2000–2001 failed to produce any more records of this bird. However, a flock of nine adults and four recently hatched ducklings were discovered at Lake Matsaborimena, in a remote area of northern Madagascar, in November 2006. The lack of human interference and invasive species in the area may have contributed to the species' higher numbers there compared to other area it is known to have inhabited in the past. The species was placed in the new "Possibly Extinct" category in the 2006 IUCN Red List; following the rediscovery, its old status of Critically Endangered was restored in the 2007 issue. As of 2008, only 25 adult birds had been counted in the wild.
In 2009, the Madagascar Pochard population was estimated to consist of less than 50 of the species making it critically endangered, catalyzing a conservation project. Non-governmental organisations such as the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and the Peregrine Fund, with support from the Madagascar government and the Mitsubishi Corporation Fund, initiated an emergency operation to prevent further endangerment and possible extinction of the bird. Lake Alaotra was declared a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention in 2003 for the safety of the Madagascar Pochard and other endangered endemic species. From the funding provided by the NGOs, funds, and trusts, a breeding facility was built to help hatch a small number of eggs taken from the wild in 2009. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust removed a batch of ready-to-hatch eggs from a lake-side nest and incubated them in a lab that was set up in a tent by the side of the lake. After hatching, the day-old chicks were taken to a holding facility in a local hotel. Reared in captivity, they hatched eighteen ducklings in April 2012 at the captive breeding centre in Antsohihy, bringing the total population to 60. In April 2013, the population reached 80, The successful hatching of the ducklings “…represent an incredible step forward in the fight to save the pochard from extinction” as Dr.Glyn Young, a conservation biologist with Durrell stated which foreshadows the possibility of adding a viable population back into the wild.
Apart from establishing a breeding facility, additional steps have been taken to conserve the Madagascar Pochard. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Peregrine Fund and two Ph.D. students, are working on identifying potential areas to release the healthy captive-bred birds. Further conservation efforts have been placed on the habitat of Lake Alaotra, a natural habitat for the Pochard, but implementation of a conservation policy in between the Ramsar, will be difficult to pass, due to Lake Alaotra's economic prosperity and dependency of agriculture and fisheries. Proposed steps that could be taken to advance the conservation of the Madagascar Pochard include protecting of least-modified wetland at Lake Alaotra, and further surveys of remote lakes to determine the existing population size. The IUCN Red List suggests that community surveys and wetland awareness programmes in the bird's range be undertaken, and that further captive-breeding programmes be established.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aythya innotata.|
- BirdLife International (2013). "Aythya innotata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard population has quadrupled". Wildlife Extra. March 2013.
- "Lake Alaotra". Birdlife International. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- "MADAGASCAR: Rice production slips again". Irinnews. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- "Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata". Birdlife International. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- "Madagascar Pochard". ARKIVE. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- René de Roland, L.A.; Sam, T.S., Rakotondratsima, M.P.H. and Thorstrom, R. (2007). "Rediscovery of the Madagascar pochard Aythya innotata in northern Madagascar". Bulletin of the African Bird Club.
- BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Aythya innotata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/10/2013. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/10/2013.
- BirdLife International (2007b): Madagascar Pochard – BirdLife Species Factsheet. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
- "Diving duck resurfaces". Birdlife. 20 November 2006.
- "Rare Madagascar duck successfully bred by Durrell". BBC News. 6 April 2012.
- BirdLife International (2007a): [ 2006–2007 Red List status changes ]. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
- "Quest to save world's rarest duck". BBC News. 6 November 2009.
- BirdLife International 2012. Aythya innotata. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org> Downloaded on 24 October 2013.
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands http://www.ramsar.org/
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved October 2013.
- "World's rarest ducklings hatch in Madagascar". BBC News. 6 April 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- "World's rarest ducklings Madagascan pochards hatch". BBC News. 6 April 2012.
- Kindelan, Katie (April 6, 2012). "Madagascar Pochard Ducklings Born, Could Save 'World's Rarest Bird'". ABC News. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Cranswick, P. 2012. Return of the native. Waterlife: 16–21.
- WILME, L. "STATUS, DISTRIBUTION AND CONSERVATION OF 2 MADAGASCAR BIRD SPECIES ENDEMIC TO LAKE ALAOTRA – DELACOUR GREBE TACHYBAPTUS-RUFOLAVATUS AND MADAGASCAR POCHARD AYTHYA-INNOTATA." Biological Conservation 691 (1994): 15–21. Web of Science. Web. Oct.-Nov. 2013. <http://apps.webofknowledge.com/full_record.do?product=WOS&search_mode=GeneralSearch&qid=1&SID=3FzsUtklyYaixCvYooP&page=1&doc=1>.
- Pidgeon, M. 1996. Summary: an ecological survey of Lake Alaotra and selected wetlands of central and eastern Madagascar in analysing the demise of Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata. Working Group on Birds in the Madagascar Region Newsletter 6(2): 17–19.
- Rene de Roland, L., Sam, T.S., Rakotondratsima, M. P. H., Thorstrom, R. 2007. Rediscovery of the Madagascar Pochard (Aythya innotata) in northern Madagascar. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 14: 171–174.
- BirdLife International 2012. Aythya innotata. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 October 2013