Although to some people it may look like a rather boring brown bird, Meller’s duck is one of the world’s rarest and least known species of wildfowl.
It is one of three duck species that only occur naturally in Madagascar. A recent survey revealed this shy and retiring duck to have a small and rapidly declining population, because of hunting and encroachment on its habitat by humans. A pair of Meller’s ducks arrived in Jersey from Mauritius in 1977 to start a captive breeding programme. Since then around 150 young have been reared at Durrell’s headquarters and sent to other institutions. In 1993 further birds were imported from Madagascar and these replaced the ex-Mauritian birds as the founders of a managed captive breeding programme.
This captive population forms an effective safeguard for the survival of the species, should the worst happen in the wild. Also crucial to the conservation of this species is extensive research on its behaviour in captivity and in its natural habitat, as well as the support and education of local people in Madagascar.