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First-ever floating aviary to be trialled at Slimbridge Wetland Centre in bid to save world's rarest duck

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THE first ever floating aviary will be trialled at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in a bid to save the world’s rarest duck.

As part of the trial, a flock of tufted ducks will spend ten days in a floating aviary at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust base in Slimbridge.

No attempt to reintroduce a diving duck species into the wild has ever been successful, so WWT conservationists have had to think outside the box.

If the floating aviary succeeds in easing the ducks’ transition from captivity to life in the wild, the same method will be used to release the Madagascar pochard – the world’s rarest duck – back into the wild in 2018.

Visitors to WWT Slimbridge will be able to watch the young ducks settle into their new home on the wetland centre’s South Finger Reedbed lake.

“I’m excited that visitors to Slimbridge this summer will see a novel conservation technique being developed,” said programme development Advisor at WWT Peter Cranswick.

“This is the ‘coal-face’ of our work in Madagascar on show in Gloucestershire and could have far reaching consequences for one of the world’s rarest creatures.

“WWT has a long history of pioneering conservation and we’re hopeful that the floating aviary will be added to that list.”

Madagascar pochards spend almost all their time on water and, importantly, feed underwater, so WWT conservationists came up with the original idea of adapting salmon-farming cages as pre-release aviaries.

To ensure the method is safe for the birds, it is being trialled on UK-native tufted ducks in Slimbridge.

The ducks will be housed in the floating aviaries for five to ten days while they adjust to their new surroundings.

Once they are comfortable, conservationists will open a door in the aviary to allow them to come and go as they please.

The tufted ducks in the Slimbridge trial will be closely monitored by scientists, who will use radio tags to ensure that they adapt successfully to life in the wild

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