21/11/2006
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Diving duck resurfaces

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Madagascar Pochard (photo: Lily-Arison Rene de Roland, The Peregrine Fund).

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.

The Madagascar Pochard 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.

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The last record of multiple birds dates back to June 1960 when 20 birds were sighted on Lake Alaotra.

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.

"Spectacular rediscoveries like this are extremely rare, but they provide a glimmer of hope for the 14 other bird species classified as Possibly Extinct." said Stuart Butchart, Global Species Programme Coordinator, BirdLife International.

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Written by: BirdLife International