Though these fuzzy cinnamon colored chicks may resemble their ordinary cousins, they are actually one of the world's most endangered species of ducks - The Madagascar Pochard. They are so rare that until about seven years ago, scientists believed they had become extinct.
Fortunately, in 2006 a flock of 22 were found swimming on a small lake in Northern Madagascar. Afraid of losing even this tiny group, two European conservation agencies - The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust set up an emergency expedition in 2009. They collected 24 eggs from the group in the wild and took them to try rear in captivity at a specially built breeding center in Antsohihy, Madagascar.
Their hard work paid off earlier this week, when this brood of 18 healthy ducklings was born, effectively almost doubling the population of the species.
The scientists plan to continue their efforts in captivity and also release some of these newly born ducklings into the wild, by next year. However, before they do that, they are trying to determine the reason for the low breeding rate of the ducks in the wild. They believe it may have something to do with the lack of food, caused by human over-fishing.
One of the solutions is to relocate the ducks to other lakes, but since fishing is the mainstay of the local communities all through the island, they will have to convince the locals to become partners in their efforts to save this fragile species by coming up with a solution that is a win-win for both!
Resources: Dailymail.co.uk, abcnews.go.com