A rare, endangered species of Asian duck, known as Baer’s Pochard, has been successfully bred at Chester Zoo in the UK.
Thirty Baer’s Pochard ducklings have hatched at the zoo, and unfortunately, according to estimates, there are not much more than that living in the wild.
The species is currently classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, and the population is steadily decreasing in the wild. Native to eastern Asia, it breeds in southeast Russia and northeast China, migrating in winter to southern China, Vietnam, Japan, and India. It is now absent or occurs in extremely reduced numbers over the majority of its former breeding and wintering grounds and is common nowhere. It is thought that hunting and wetland destruction are the key reasons for its decline. Experts fear just a few individuals are now left, and the species could soon vanish altogether.
Curator of Birds, Andrew Owen said, “We’re perilously close to losing this species in the wild, and that’s why our recent hatchlings are very, very important, indeed. They’re, without doubt, some of the rarest ducks in the world. Thirty Baer’s Pochards have been bred here this breeding season and whilst it’s good news in the sense that it’s a record for us, rather frighteningly, there may only be similar numbers left in the wild.”
Chester Zoo is one of just a handful of institutions in the world, and the only zoo in the UK, that is working with the highly threatened species and hopes to play a vital role in their long-term survival.
Mr. Owen added, “Our very talented bird team has given all our ducklings a helping hand, rearing them under close watch to make sure they make it through to adulthood. With a species that’s so rare, it’s imperative that we get as many through to that stage as possible. Hopefully these little ducklings will start to rear their own young next year and, beyond that, a European-wide breeding program in zoos and bird parks could be what saves the species from extinction.”