03 January 2013

The Baer’s pochard ducklings, classed by conservationists as being critically endangered in the wild, have hatched at Chester Zoo.

Experts suggest that less than 100 individuals are left as a result of hunting and loss of their habitat in Siberia and eastern Asia where they were once commonly found.

Chester Zoo is one of the few institutions in the world that is breeding the rare species and hopes to play a vital role in their long-term survival.

Curator of Birds Andrew Owen said:

“We’re perilously close to losing this species in the wild. So a European-wide breeding programme could be what saves the species from extinction and that’s why our recent hatchlings are very, very special indeed.

“We’ve just built a new purpose-built facility for breeding ducks at the zoo and our expert bird keepers have given these ducklings a helping hand, rearing them under close watch to make sure they make it through to adulthood. It’s imperative that we get as many through to that stage as possible.

“Hopefully these little ducklings will start to rear their own young next year.”

Seventeen individuals have so far hatched this year at the zoo.