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Rare Ducklings Hatch at Central Park Zoo
Credit: Judith Wolfe © WCS

The Wildlife Conservation Society's Central Park Zoo has successfully hatched eight critically endangered Chinese merganser ducklings a first for any North American zoo.

The eight ducklings were hatched on April 26. The zoo has two breeding pairs of Chinese mergansers, or scaly-sided mergansers, a species of sea duck found in eastern Asia.

WCS's Central Park Zoo maintains the largest public collection of sea ducks and the only zoo-kept Chinese Mergansers in North America. Experts at the zoo hope to answer key conservation questions about the species through the captive breeding program.

These hatchlings are a step in the right direction for the species, said Jeff Sailer, Director of City Zoos. Chinese merganser populations are rapidly deteriorating and by successfully breeding them in captivity, we may be able to ensure a future for this species as a whole.

The Chinese merganser is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List with populations estimated between 1,000 and 2,500 and falling. The decline is due to habitat destruction, pollution, illegal hunting and human disturbance of breeding territory. With these hatchlings, WCS's Central Park Zoo will contribute to the understanding of how to better conserve the species.

Many species of waterfowl are in danger of disappearing. Waterfowl in general are not as well represented in zoos as they once were. Zoos play a vital role in raising the population numbers of endangered species like the Chinese merganser.