WWT/Malagasy exchange to help world’s rarest bird

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Published by on July 18, 2014 courtesy of surfbirds archive, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

The man charged with daily care of the world’s rarest bird, the Madagascar pochard, is in the UK this month for intensive training with the world’s top aviculturists from WWT and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Malagasy born and bred, Floriot Randrianarimangason started working for Durrell in Madagascar looking after the world’s rarest tortoise – the ploughshare – but in 2009 he switched to looking after the Madagascar pochards and now manages the special pochard conservation breeding facility.

Floriot heads a team of three, the only wildfowl aviculturists working in Madagascar. With just 50 birds in their care, and breeding just 2–3 broods a year until the release programme is underway, their opportunity to learn through experience is always going to be limited.

Madagascar Pochard © Markus Lagerqvist, from the surfbirds galleries.

So Floriot is flying to the UK to work alongside aviculturists at WWT Slimbridge, WWT Washington, WWT Martin Mere and Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey, who care for thousands of waterbirds between them and are hatching tens of chicks each day at this time of year.

Floriot said ahead of his visit:

“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 WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, working alongside expert aviculturists Martin Brown, Phoebe Young, Phil Tovey, Nigel Jarrett and Mark Roberts, who have all spent time in Madagascar developing the pochard conservation breeding programme and training the staff.

He will then travel to WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire and WWT Washington in Tyne and Wear to work with Graham Clarkson and Owen Joiner, both of whom have also worked with Floriot in Madagascar.

He’ll then return to WWT Slimbridge before flying on to Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey to spend time with Dr Glyn Young, a world expert on Madagascar pochard, and the rest of the team at Durrell Wildlife Park.

The Madagascar pochard was thought to be extinct until a tiny pocket of 22 survivors was discovered on a single lake in 2006. That figure has hardly risen because every year the ducklings die through starvation. The lake’s conditions don’t suit them. But we’ve found a different lake that could give the species hope, and we need local people’s help to create an environment that works for both wildlife and people. You can help too: Find out all about Mission Madagascar

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