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EXCLUSIVE: One of world’s rarest ducks seen in Pampanga

A lone Baer’s Pochard (Ahthya baeri) basks in a freshwater pond in Pampanga, January 31. No more than 700 live specimens are thought to exist, making the bird one of the rarest ducks in the world. The two other ducks swimming nearby are endemic Philippine Ducks. Tonji Ramos
A male Baer's Pochard (Aythya baeri), a duck so rare that it is classified as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, was spotted by a group of birdwatchers in Pampanga on the early morning of January 31.
Birdwatchers Martin Kennewell, Irene Dy, and Robert Hutchinson spotted the drake swimming in a well-vegetated freshwater pond in the company of other ducks, including Garganey (Anas querquedula), Philippine Duck (Anas luzonica), Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), and Wandering Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata).

No more than 700 known to exist
The most recent estimate of the Baer's Pochard's global population puts it at around 150 to 700 mature individuals, making it one of the rarest diving ducks in the world. Observations of this species, both in its traditional breeding and wintering areas, have dwindled rapidly over the past few years, and it is no longer common anywhere. 
Experts believe destruction of wetlands and hunting, in both its breeding and wintering grounds, are driving its rapid population decline.

Said Arne Jensen, Wetlands International's representative in the Philippines and Records Committee Head of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP):
The exciting sighting of Baer's Pochard, one of the most endangered ducks in the world, in a freshwater pond in Pampanga underscores the importance of wetlands as a sanctuary for wildlife. It is very unfortunate that all of the mighty 25,000 hectares of the Candaba Marsh stretching two provinces are literally gone now. Or in wildlife terms: From up to 100,000 migratory ducks in the 1980s to at the very best 5,000 to 10,000 ducks today before rice planting starts. 

Photographer and WBCP member Tonji Ramos also shared in the WBCP newsletter e-BON:
I was in Candaba for three days to look at the Baer’s Pochard.  It is ironic that the Baer’s Pochard chose this time to land in Candaba.  It is a very rare duck, the rarest in Asia and the populations have been declining in all its wintering areas. It could very well become extinct in a short time. It is just its luck that it found its way to the Philippines and chose Candaba as its wintering ground. It is sitting in the water and beside it is a rotovator that is chugging away tilling the soil to turn the last pond into a rice field.
The Baer's Pochard breeds in dense vegetation on or near water or in shrubby meadows in Russia's Amur and Ussuri basins and in northeastern China. It spends the winters in freshwater ponds, lakes and reservoirs mainly in eastern and southern China, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Some wintering individuals have also been spotted in Pakistan, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Bhutan and Thailand. It is a rare migrant in Mongolia, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Only 3 previous sightings in PHL
In the Philippines, the Baer's Pochard has only been documented three times previously, all in wetlands: March 1979 in Candaba; November 1999 in Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Lagoon in Quezon City; and February 2003 in Bislig, Surigao del Sur, according to WBCP data.
“Wetlands are not just essential for wildlife, recreational, and educational purposes, they serve an important ecological function by acting as a natural sponge for water to prevent flooding, removing pollutants in the water, and replenishing groundwater supplies,” said Jensen. — TJD, GMA News