World’s First Floating Aviary
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a conservation organisation which works to save precious wetlands. It takes its wetland expertise around the world in an attempt to rescue endangered species from the edge of extinction. It investigates the causes of damage to the wetlands and protects and repairs these vital areas together with actually establishing exciting new wetland areas for people and wildlife.
The Madagascan Pochard
WWT is currently working to save the Madagascar pochard which is thought to be the world's rarest bird. Human activity has caused the birds to be confined to just one wetland. 96% of the chicks which are born there are then dying at two to three weeks old because the lake has insufficient food for the ducks. It is estimated that only 25 of these birds remain in the wild.
WWT has managed to establish a captive population of the ducks. But there is huge difficulty in returning the birds to the wild. Indeed, no diving species of duck has ever been successfully reintroduced. The charity has identified one site, Lake Sofia, which is healthy enough to support the pochards. But if they were to leave this area following heir release, they would most likely starve to death.
So, it is vital that they are comfortable in their surrounding before they are released. But how do you acclimatise ducks to a wetland without actually releasing them?
Pioneering Conservation Technique
The Madagascan pochard spends most of its time on water and feeds underwater. A conventional aviary would not, therefore, be a viable option in helping the birds to return to the wild. WWT conservationists believed that a floating aviary could be the solution and have created a design which they think will work.
Trialling the Aviary
The world’s first floating aviary will be trialled at Slimbridge Wetland Centre in the UK. A flock of tufted ducks will spend 10 days in the aviary to adjust to their surroundings before being released. If this method proves successful, the aviary will then be used in Madagascar in 2018.
The new aviary could prove to be a crucial factor in the reintroduction of several rare species in the future. It is a pioneering move which was inspired by salmon-farming cages. The trial at Slimbridge will be closely monitored by scientists and the ducks will be radio tagged so their progress can be accurately recorded.
WWT has been working closely with the communities around Lake Sofia in Madagascar for the last few years to improve farming and fishing practices so that they are more productive while having less impact on the natural environment. WWT has also written guidance for the Madagascan government, local authorities and conservation organisations to help them improve wetland conservation in the country.