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A bird rarer than the giant panda is now breeding again

Editor: Zhang Jianfeng 丨CGTN

06-01-2018 09:08 BJT

Declared critically endangered in 2012, ornithologists have confirmed the successful breeding of the Baer's Pochard, a migratory diving duck at Hengshui Lake in north China's Hebei Province. 

"This is the first confirmed breeding of the 'Critically Endangered' diving duck anywhere in the world in 2018 and is almost certainly a direct result of conservation efforts by the local government and nature reserve staff," an association of conservation groups maintained in a statement. 

Over a dozen newborn ducklings have been spotted swimming in the lake, reported two researchers from Hengshui University. 

Last year, China and Germany jointly launched the Hengshui Lake Conservation and Management Project to revive the Baer’s Pochard population.

“We are delighted that our efforts have been rewarded so quickly. Our aim now is to build on this success to ensure successful breeding becomes an annual event, ” said Yuan Bo, Director of Hengshui Lake National Nature Reserve.

Globally, there is very little awareness about the Baer’s Pochard – a diving duck that once thrived in eastern Asia. The bird’s population started declining in the 1980s, and its numbers decimated by more than 90 percent, making it rarer than the giant panda. Today, barely 1,000 individual Baer’s Pochard exist in the wild.  

Experts blamed fluctuating water levels, illegal egg collection, and disturbance caused by tourist boating and illegal electric fishery for massive destruction of Baer’s Pochard habitat and breeding.

Concerned over its low number, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the species as “critically endangered” in 2012. Species put under this category are usually just a step away from extinction. 

According to ornithologists, Hengshui Lake became an important global site for the revival of this bird in 2014 with sightings of more than 300 of Baer’s Pochard. The sightings were recorded mainly during spring migration season; a few pairs were also seen during the summer season. 

"Since 2017, regular monitoring of the site for Baer’s Pochard and targeted conservation actions have been initiated through the Sino-German Hengshui Hu Conservation and Protection Project,” a press statement said.  

Terry Townshend, director of Eco-Action, told CGTN that the extraordinary actions by the local government and nature reserve at Hengshui Lake have given the duck a chance and their breeding success this year shows they are already responding. “Together, we are saving this species from extinction."

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