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This little brown duck was once thought to be extinct - now, its been released back into the wild

Meet the Madagascar pochard.

Madagascar_Pochard,_Captive_Breeding_Program,_Madagascar_4 A Madagascar Pochard in captivity. Attis1979 / Flickr CC Attis1979 / Flickr CC / Flickr CC

A GROUP OF little brown ducks achieved something huge for their species this month

The Madagascar pochard was once thought to be extinct in the wild, and hadn’t been seen in more than a decade until 2006, when 25 were found on a lake.

They are sometimes called the world’s rarest bird (although that title might be held by a Stresemann’s Bristlefront in Brazil, who is the last-known bird of her species).

The were rescued, bred, and now, after years of careful work and research, some were released back into the wild.

For groups were involved in the release – the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund and the Government of Madagascar – which involved a specially-constructed floating aviary and extensive engagement with communities around their new home, Lake Sofia in Madagascar.

These aviaries are converted salmon-farming cages. The ducks spend most of their lives on the water, and feed underwater and so when they hatched, they were reared at the water’s edge and moved into these aviaries just before they were able to fly.

MAd-poh-web-6 The duck in their floating aviary. Ben Sadd / WTT Ben Sadd / WTT / WTT

Other supports for the ducks, such as feeding stations and floating rafts, have also been installed in the lake. This extensive work to raise the ducks near and on the lake for as much of their lives as possible is to ensure they don’t simply fly away to another, unsuitable lake.

They were released from the floating aviaries earlier this month, and have successfully spend the past few weeks diving, flying, returning the aviary at night, and meeting other residents of the lake.

“It takes a village to raise a child, so the old African proverb goes, but in this case it has taken a village to raise a duck,” WWT’s head of conservation breeding Nigel Jarret said in a statement.

Mad-poch-web-2 Madagascar pochard ducklings. Peter Cranswick / WWT Peter Cranswick / WWT / WWT

“We have been preparing for this moment for over a decade.”

He said the remote area where the ducks were released was only accessible for three months a year, making the work leading up to the release complicated.

Jarret believes that the work carried out with local communities to combat the issues on the lakes that led to the Madagascar pochard’s near extinction – pollution, invasive species, poor management – could work as a template for other areas in Madagascar where wetlands are threatened:

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

Mad-poch-web-5 The ducks leaving their aviary. WWT WWT

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