29 Dec 2018

Rarest bird in the world making a comeback

11:03 am on 29 December 2018

The rarest bird in the world - a species of duck called the Madagascar pochard - thought to be extinct for 15 years, has been brought back from the brink of oblivion.

A male Madagascar Pochard

A male Madagascar pochard Photo: AFP

An international team of researchers released 21 of the birds at a remote lake in the north of Madagascar.

It's a step towards the recovery of a species that just over a decade ago was thought to be extinct.

Head of conservation programmes at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in the UK, Rob Shaw, said the species is 'clinging to existence'.

"The threats that they face across the rest of Madagascar, which is why they've been wiped out so extensively, are vast.

"They range from sedimentation, invasive species, pollution, poor agricultural practices, a whole suite of different things that combine to make the perfect storm that really make it hard for a species like the Madagascar pochard to survive."

In a painstaking effort - it has taken more than a decade of work. The international team, which included WWT, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund and the Government of Madagascar, rescued a clutch of pochard eggs and raised them in captivity.

They then scoured Madagascar for the best site to bring the captive-bred birds back to the wild, settling on Lake Sofia in the north of the country.

The team hopes that making this reintroduction a success - and bringing back a bird that was on the very brink of extinction - will provide a powerful example, not just for how to save the most threatened species but how communities can support both people and wildlife in such valuable habitats, even in areas of significant poverty.

The Madagascar pochard are only slightly more endangered than New Zealand's fairy tern, of which fewer than a dozen pairs remain.