The following announcement from Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (UK) will come as no surprise as Birds Korea and other conservation groups in East Asia have been sounding the alarm about Baer’s Pochard for some years now. Has the focus been turned on yet another endemic Asian waterbird too late? We can only hope not:
- In 2012, Baer’s Pochard was uplisted to Critically Endangered (see http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/100600478/0 and www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=478), as a result of an apparently catastrophic decline that has taken place in the past decade, though the species has undoubtedly been in decline for longer. Good evidence exists to suggest the global population is now fewer than 1,000 birds, and it seems likely, based on current knowledge, that the population could be considerably smaller than that. The species remains poorly known and there are now no known sites that regularly support this species. Only one count of more than 20 birds has been reported from anywhere within the species range in the past two years (when 92 birds were observed at Poyang Hu, China in December 2011). Searches for birds in parts of the Russian breeding range in 2012 only recorded two birds at Lake Khanka in August. Currently, global extinction in the wild within ten years seems a very real possibility.
As a result, surveys/searches for this species are urgently needed, so that sites where conservation actions may be implemented can be identified. This will be initiated this month, with targeted searches at key sites in China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, which have been organised by WWT and WWF-China, with support from BirdLife International, International Crane Foundation, University of Science and Technology of China, State Forestry Administration (China), Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (Myanmar) and many other individuals. However, due to funding constraints coverage is incomplete and additional coverage is therefore needed, particularly in other range countries not listed above, but also at less favoured sites within those countries too.
Many such counts can be conducted as part of ongoing annual counts for the Asian Waterbird Census (see http://south-asia.wetlands.org/WHATWEDO/AsianWaterbirdCensus/tabid/2892/Default.aspx), for which the recommended dates are Saturday 12 to Sunday 27, January 2013. Notes these dates are for guidance only and counts from any date in January are very welcome. However, we would particularly like to encourage counters to try and also visit other sites that may not be ordinarily visited but which may hold suitable habitat for Baer’s Pochard, and also to make a particular effort to locate Baer’s Pochard at any sites visited.
As all records are now important, please also try to document any birds seen as thoroughly as possible, ideally including some photographs. Also record the sex of all birds seen, and any other relevant details, such as the behaviour of the birds and details of the wetland habitat they were using at the site (e.g. open water, amongst emergent vegetation). If you count birds as part of a standard AWC count then please submit the count, along with those of other waterbirds, to Wetlands International (or you national coordinator) in the usual way. However, it would also be much appreciated if you could contact WWT on firstname.lastname@example.org with any information that relates to Baer’s Pochard as soon as possible after the count, because this will be used to plan further conservation activities later this year. Counts at other times of the year are also very welcome, but the current focus is the AWC period so we can minimise the potential for duplicated counts.
Further conservation initiatives for this species will be communicated to this group in due course. In the meantime, if you would like further information please contact me directly.
Head of Species Monitoring
Species Conservation Department
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust