Diving duck resurfaces
The Madagascar Pochard, a diving duck last sighted in 1991 and feared ‘Possibly Extinct’, has been rediscovered during a survey in remote northern Madagascar.
Conservationists from The Peregrine Fund Madagascar Project, discovered nine adults and four recently-hatched young on a remote lake, and have since revisited the site for further observations and data.
“This is an exciting discovery that strengthens our conviction that putting well-trained biologists into the field to learn about species is critical for conservation success,” said Rick Watson, International Programs Director for The Peregrine Fund.
“With better knowledge about the habitat requirements of the Madagascar Pochard comes greater hopes for protecting the species and this area of marshland – a habitat on which many other threatened species may depend.” —Vony Raminoarisoa, Director of BirdLife International Madagascar Programme
The Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata was until recently listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). The last pochard sighting was on Lake Alaotra in the Central Plateau of Madagascar in 1991 when a male was captured and kept in Antananarivo Zoological and Botanical Gardens until its death one year later. The lack of subsequent records despite intensive searches, and the intensity of threats to the species, had led to it being tagged as Possibly Extinct.
The last record of multiple birds dates back to June 1960 when 20 birds were sighted on Lake Alaotra.
“After so much searching, and so long without a sighting, hope seemed to be fading for this species." said Vony Raminoarisoa, Director of BirdLife International Madagascar Programme. "With better knowledge about the habitat requirements of the Madagascar Pochard comes greater hopes for protecting the species and this area of marshland – a habitat on which many other threatened species may depend.”
The decline of the Madagascar Pochard is thought to have started in the mid-20th century and has been linked with degrading lake and marshland habitat from introduced plant and fish species, conversion to rice paddies, and burning. Little is known about the pochard, an extremely secretive and often solitary bird that prefers shallow and marshy habitat.
"The finding encourages us to consider more seriously the possibly that Madagascar's other 'Possibly Extinct' waterbird, the Alaotra Grebe, may not have been restricted to Lake Alaotra (where it no longer occurs); perhaps it occurred elsewhere, and perhaps it still does" said Roger Safford, Programme & Projects Manager, BirdLife International.