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    The ferruginous duck project in Poland

    ZOO Wroclaw and the University of Wroclaw joined forces on a conservation initiative called the ferruginous duck project to increase the number of endangered Podgorzałka ducks in the Lower Silesia region. This week, another 15 individuals were released into the Milicz Ponds. Last year, the project’s founders drove the first Podgorzałka ducks to the reserve, returning 22 birds to their natural habitat. Some of the birds came from ZOO Wroclaw, while others came from zoos in Bratislava and Berlin.

    According to the Polish Red Book of Animals, the Podgorzałka has a vulnerable to extinction status. The population of these ducks in Poland from 2018-2020 was estimated to be only 100-130 pairs, which is several times less than decades ago. Over 90% of Podgorzałka breeding grounds are fish ponds. The main threat to this species is the loss of habitats, the destruction of wetlands, the reconstruction and regulation of reservoirs, droughts, as well as predators.
    With the low number of ferruginous ducks in Poland and neighboring countries, the best way to maintain this species is to replenish the population with birds from breeding programs. As announced by the spokesperson of ZOO Wroclaw, Weronika Skupin, the Podgorzałka reintroduction program will continue for another four years. During this time, through the collaboration between the Wrocław ZOO and the University of Wrocław, several hundred ducks may find their way to the Milicz Ponds.
    “Continuation of last year’s efforts is a great success based on the cooperation and trust of three different institutions. These actions are evidence of the involvement of employees from the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Wroclaw in the conservation of species. Knowledge of animal biology and ecology translates into concrete activities aimed at preserving not only local biological diversity,” said Prof. Marcin Kadej, Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Wroclaw, and coordinator of the project on behalf of the university.
    The director of the Department of Education at the Wrocław ZOO and project coordinator on behalf of the ZOO, Marta Zając-Ossowska, pointed out that cooperation with scientists is one of the elements of the modern zoo’s mission.
    The ferruginous duck project currently involves the cooperation of four zoos – in Wroclaw, Bratislava, Budapest, and Berlin, as well as the University of Wroclaw and Milicz Ponds S.A. It has a regional scope, but the interest in participating in it is expanding. More Polish zoos are applying to join, from Opole, Chorzow, Bydgoszcz, and Gdansk, as well as foreign ones, including those from France and the UK. It is an excellent example that together we can achieve more, and the goal is to rebuild the population of the local species,” said Zając-Ossowska.

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