Madagascar promises to protect world's rarest duck on Ramsar wetland


Madagascar Pochard has a rosier future after the country's government pledged to protect the wetland earmarked as its new home, today on the International Day of Biodiversity.

A recent Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) audit of Madagascar's wetlands identified Lake Sofia as one of the only wetlands in the country in a natural enough state to potentially release captive-bred Madagascar Pochards in future. Lake Sofia's designation as a Ramsar Wetland also supports the 10,000 people who live in the catchment, the majority of whom live below the international poverty line and are dependent upon the lake for their resources. Villagers are already working closely with conservationists from WWT, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Aga Khan Foundation and Asity Madagascar (BirdLife International's partner there) to restore natural habitats, manage resources sustainably and improve agricultural practices to increase yields and decrease the use of chemicals.

Madagascar Pochard (Photo: WWT)

Tomos Avent, WWT's Head of Conservation and Development, said: "The commitment to Lake Sofia by the Government of Madagascar is exactly what the pochards and the local villagers need right now. It reassures the villagers that the government supports their ambition to make their living from the wetlands in a sustainable way, which will help wildlife too."

Andrew Terry, Head of Field Programmes, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: "Durrell has been committed to supporting the Ramsar process in Madagascar since the country first ratified the convention. It is great to see recognition for Lake Sofia and this provides an important step forward for the efforts to restore the Madagascar Pochard within a healthy wetland landscape."

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Lake Sofia (Photo: WWT)

As one of Madagascar's Ramsar Wetlands, the Government of Madagascar recognises the importance of the site and promises to ensure that the ecological character of Lake Sofia is maintained.

Ramsar wetlands are designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, one of the world's first and largest environmental treaties. At the centre of the Ramsar philosophy is that wetlands should be used wisely, acknowledging the importance of the habitat for both people and wildlife, and finding a balance between those benefits.

The Government of Madagascar designated four other wetlands on this International Day of Biodiversity, with the support of WWF. They have nominated five wetlands already this year, including the pochards' last refuge, the Bemanevika wetland complex, bringing the total number of Ramsar wetlands in Madagascar to 20, covering two million hectares.