Rare species of Asian duck on the brink of extinction bred at Chester Zoo
A rare species of Asian duck, which is on the brink of extinction, has been bred at Chester Zoo.
Keepers believe as many Baer’s pochard ducklings have hatched at Chester Zoo this year as are now left in the wild.
The species is listed by the International Union for the Conservation Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered as a result of hunting and loss of their habitat in Siberia and eastern Asia where they were once commonly found in their tens of thousands. 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 have 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 programme in zoos and bird parks could be what saves the species from extinction.
Baer’s pochard facts
- The Baer’s pochard is a diving duck found in eastern Asia. It spends the summer in southeast Russia and northeast China, migrating in winter to southern China, Vietnam, Japan and India.
- The species breeds in the wild on marshy ponds in southeast Russia and northeast China, migrating in winter to southern China, Vietnam, Japan, and India.
- They dive up to a depth of 2 m to hunt aquatic insects, molluscs, shrimps and fishes. They also eat algae, aquatic plants and seeds, especially during winter.
- Chester Zoo is one of the few one of the few institutions in Europe to currently work with this rare diving duck.
- The species is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered. They are threatened due to habitat loss, illegal poisoning and trapping.