Madagascar Pochard conservationist to be trained in Britain

Floriot monitors and weighs a Madagascar Pochard egg from one of the WWT's incubators. Photo: WWT.
Floriot monitors and weighs a Madagascar Pochard egg from one of the WWT's incubators. Photo: WWT.
A Malagasy man will be trained in Britain this month to learn how to care effectively for one of the world's rarest birds, Madagascar Pochard.

Malagasy born and bred, Floriot Randrianarimangason will work intensively with some of the world’s top aviculturists from wildlife charities the WWT and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. He started working for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Madagascar, where he looked after the world’s rarest reptiles – Angonoka or Ploughshare Tortoise – but in 2009 he switched to looking after the Madagascar Pochards and now manages the special conservation breeding facility for the recently-rediscovered species. Previously thought to be extinct, bird of prey conservation charity The Peregrine Fund discovered a small number of Madagascar Pochards at a lake near Bemanevika in 2006 during fieldwork for Madagascar Harrier, another endangered species of bird.

Floriot heads a team of just three wildfowl aviculturists working in Madagascar. With only 50 birds in their care, which breed just two to three broods a year until the release programme is underway, their opportunity to learn through experience is always going to be limited. So Floriot is flying to Britain to work alongside aviculturists at Slimbridge WWT, Glos, Washington WWT, Co Durham, Martin Mere WWT, Lancs, and Durrell Wildlife Park, Jersey, who care for thousands of waterbirds between them and are hatching many chicks every day, at this time of year.

Ahead of his visit, Floriot said: “This will be very valuable time for me. I’ve met many of the people I’ll be working alongside before in Madagascar, where they’ve helped set up the pochard breeding facility. This time I’ll be seeing how things are done in the UK where you have decades of experience in breeding wildfowl for conservation.

“Though the situation in Madagascar is different in some ways – the climate, food and materials available – this experience will help me to adapt these methods to ensure a safe future for the Madagascar Pochard.”

Floriot’s month-long visit will be intensive, covering four locations across the British Isles in just five weeks. He’ll work alongside the avicultural teams each day and spend time at the end of each to reflect on applying the new experiences to Madagascar and the pochards.

Peter Cranswick, WWT’s Head of Species Recovery, is part of the team restoring a healthy population of Madagascar Pochard to the wild. He said: “Floriot already manages an incredible feat, caring for the world’s rarest bird in very challenging circumstances. No one else in Madagascar is doing what he does, so for support and advice, he relies on contacting us by phone. This month he’ll be rolling his sleeves up, just as he would back home, and we’ll immerse him in more duck-related activity than he dreamt was possible, covering every aspect of their care.”

First Floriot will spend two weeks at Slimbridge, working alongside expert aviculturists who have all spent time in Madagascar developing the pochard conservation breeding programme and training the staff. He will then travel to Martin Mere and Washington to work with Graham Clarkson and Owen Joiner, both of whom have also worked with Floriot in Madagascar. He’ll then return to Slimbridge before flying on to Durrell Wildlife Park to spend time with Dr Glyn Young, a world expert on Madagascar Pochard, and the rest of the team at the park.