Rare duck given a helping hand
Twenty-two Laysan Ducks were released on Midway Atoll, Hawaii, in December 2005 as part of a two-year reintroduction project organised by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Geological Survey.
Nigel Jarrett of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), who took part in the release, commented: "Before the arrival of people in the Hawaiian Islands around 1,500 years ago, these ducks were widespread. Recently, they’ve been clinging to survival on one tiny island."
The Laysan Duck Anas laysanensis is Critically Endangered and at one stage was the rarest bird in the world with just one pair remaining. The male died leaving the female to rear a brood successfully. Since then the population has fluctuated between 100 and 600 birds. For just over 100 years, the last wild population has survived on a tiny coral atoll, Laysan Island, just 3.7 km2 in size, where they have suffered from food shortages, habitat loss and low reproductive success.
The latest release on Midway Atoll is part of a programme to establish an 'insurance' population within the prehistoric range of the species, on a predator-free island. The journey by boat from Laysan Island took two days. In 2004, five of the six females released on Midway attempted to breed. "We are confident the birds released in 2005 will settle and begin to produce ducklings in 2006," said Jarrett.