The Madagascar pochard, one of the world's rarest birds, gets new home

Twenty-one Madagascar pochards have been released at Lake Sofia in Madagascar. PHOTO: WILDFOWL & WETLANDS TRUST
Twenty-one Madagascar pochards have been released at Lake Sofia in Madagascar. PHOTO: WILDFOWL & WETLANDS TRUST

One of the rarest birds in the world, thought to be extinct just over a decade ago, has been given a new home.

Twenty-one Madagascar pochards now live on Lake Sofia, a remote lake in the north of Madagascar.

The duck species' introduction to Lake Sofia has been meticulously planned by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund and the government of Madagascar.

The birds, which hatched in October, spent a week in aviaries on the lake, before they were released. This was to allow the birds to become accustomed to their new surroundings, increasing the chances that they will remain at the site after release.

According to WWT, the pochards adapted quickly to the lake, associating with other wild ducks and returning to the floating aviaries to feed and roost.

Madagascar pochards were thought to be extinct for 15 years, until a group of ducks was discovered in 2006.

Then, the birds were found to be reproducing but their ducklings could not survive because the lake where they were found was too deep and cold, The Guardian reported.

"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," WWT's head of conservation breeding Nigel Jarrett said in a statement on Friday (Dec 28).

Much of the wetlands across northern Madagascar are "severely degraded due to human encroachment", and the recent release of the ducks at Lake Sofia is part of a long-term plan to restore these wetlands.

WWT, Durrell and other partners have worked with communities around Lake Sofia to improve farming and fishing to help them increase their productivity while reducing the impact on the surrounding environment.

"Working with local communities to solve the issues which were driving this bird to extinction has been essential to giving the pochard a chance of survival," Mr Jarrett said.

"If we can make this work, it will provide a powerful example not just for how to save the planet's most threatened species, but also for how communities can manage an ecosystem to benefit people and wildlife, especially in areas of significant poverty."