Why this duck is rarer than a panda

The previously common species of duck is now listed as Critically Endangered.

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Baer's pochard

Baer's pochard is now Critically Endangered © WWT

 

Experts are estimating that one of Asia’s once common ducks is now rarer than giant pandas.

According to the latest figures from the IUCN Red List, there are 1864 giant pandas in the wild, but less than 1000 of the Baer’s pochard.

To address these issues, researchers from ten countries gathered at Hengshui Lake National Nature Reserve near Beijing in China and agreed the ‘Hengshui Declaration’ to save the Baer’s pochard from extinction in the wild.

“This workshop has been a resounding success and it has been truly heartening to hear from so many people, from so many countries, who care about the future of this special duck,” says Richard Hearn, head of monitoring at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and co-ordinator of the Baer’s Pochard Task Force.

“As well as helping hugely to shine a spotlight on its conservation needs, the workshop has also provided a clear understanding of what we need to do next to help ensure its survival.”

Once prevalent across central and south east Asia, Baer’s pochard numbers suffered a serious decline from what is suspected to be major changes and degradation to their wetland habitat.

During the workshop, scholars from across central and south east Asia discussed urgent conservation priorities including encouraging all range states to strengthen the protection of all sites supporting the duck, and recognising the importance of Hengshui Lake for breeding, migrating and wintering Baer’s pochard.

 

There are now less than 1000 Baer's pochards left in the wild © WWT

 

“Hengshui lake is the most important known site for Baer’s pochard in the world. With that great honour comes a great responsibility,” says Mr Yuan Bo, director of Hengshui Lake National Nature Reserve.

“We are doing all we can to ensure the site is managed in a way that allows out Baer’s pochards to flourish, thereby helping the reverse the decline in the wild of this beautiful duck.”

Several species of birds have become extinct in recent years, but these are normally species that are restricted to small areas, such as islands. The Baer's pochard is the first species established across a major continent to become Critically Endangered.

There 52 Baer's pochards at WWT centres in the UK, which act as a safety net for the species.

 

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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