Zoo’s breeding program sees tremendous success with hatching chicks of eight different rare or endangered species

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New York – Oct. 16, 2013 – The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Central Park Zoo has become a breeding ground for some of the most beautiful and endangered waterfowl from around the world, with eight rare or endangered species producing chicks this year.

The Central Park Zoo began a waterfowl breeding program four years ago and the rate of success has been steadily increasing since the inception of the program. These efforts are integrated with WCS field conservation and present unique opportunities to understand the breeding biology and parental care activities of these species where such information is often scarce.

Central Park Zoo has 23 different duck species on exhibit and boasts the largest public collection of sea ducks both by number of individuals and species represented in the world. Most of the species are either uncommon in zoos or endangered in the wild.

Below are the species that have been successfully bred this year at the Central Park Zoo. All of the adults are on exhibit, but some of the chicks may not be.

Scaly-sided merganser 
Nine scaly-sided merganser chicks have hatched this year. They are on exhibit with their parents and other adults in the Tisch Children’s Zoo and the Stork Aviary. These endangered sea ducks are native to forested river habitats of Russia, China, and Korea. Estimates indicate there are fewer than 3,000 left in the wild. The Wildlife Conservation Society, in collaboration with the East Asia-Australasia Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) has field conservation projects within the scaly-sided merganser’s natural range to assess and determine stressors affecting this species that has dramatically declined in recent years. WCS’s Central Park Zoo is the only zoo that has successfully propagated this species.

Long-tailed duck 
Long-tailed ducks are a species of sea duck that can be seen in the Polar Seabird Exhibit adjacent to the Penguin House. Recently classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is known for its distinctive plumage and yodel-like vocalizations. The species’ native breeding range is near arctic tundra and coastal habitats throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, and can be seen in winter along coastal areas of the northeastern U.S. including NY and Long Island. The WCS Beringia Program recently helped protect 11 million acres of wetland habitat in Arctic Alaska for this and other arctic breeding birds. The zoo’s two new chicks represent the first that have been successfully raised at Central Park Zoo. WCS also works in the New York Bight off the coast of New York City to protect the marine habitats that support the long-tailed duck and other wildlife.

Spectacled eider 
Also in the Polar Seabird exhibit, spectacled eiders are large sea ducks that are native to coastal areas in Arctic Russia and Alaska and spend most of the winter in the Bering Sea. They are classified as Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as their population is decreasing due to the changing climate in the Arctic. The WCS Beringia Program has ongoing field conservation projects in their range, and is closely examining how the changing climate of the Arctic is threatening this and other Arctic species. A first for Central Park Zoo, there are three chicks that will be on exhibit later this year.

Baer’s pochard 
The IUCN has designated the Baer’s pochard as critically endangered. They can be seen on exhibit in the zoo’s Tisch Children’s Zoo and the Temperate Stream adjacent to the red pandas. Native to the wetlands of East, estimates indicate there may be fewer than 500 of these ducks remaining in the wild. Conservationists are uncertain of the causes of its dramatic decline. WCS’s Central Park Zoo has had success raising this species in the past and remains one of the few institutions in North America to currently work with this rare diving duck. This year there have been nine chicks that will be on exhibit soon.

Pacific common eider 
The Central Park Zoo is the only zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to exhibit the Pacific common eider. These large sea ducks are known for their soft down that keeps them warm in the cold ocean waters. Pacific common eiders are the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere and prefer to stay close to shore where they forage for mollusks and sea urchins. The WCS Beringia has field projects within the Pacific common eider’s arctic range to help protect their habitat. This is the first year that the Central Park Zoo has successfully bred this species. There are three chicks that are not yet on exhibit, but the adults can be seen in the Polar Seabird exhibit.

Pink-eared duck 
Pink-eared ducks are widespread across the continent of Australia, but are extremely rare in North American zoos. They are nomadic in the wild, following rain to find flood waters. They time their breeding activity to correspond with the Australian rainy season. Pink-eared ducks display a unique zebra-like pattern in their plumage and have a shovel-like bill that helps them sift through water and sediment to find invertebrates. Unlike most waterfowl species, the specialized bill is fully developed when the chicks hatch. Central Park Zoo hatched one chick this year and is only the second zoo accredited by the AZA to successfully breed this species (San Diego, 2001). The adults are on exhibit in the Tisch Children’s Zoo.

Radjah shelduck 
The radjah shelduck lives in the Central Park Zoo’s Tropic Zone among dozens of species of free-flying birds. Native to Australia, this bird prefers wetlands and feeds on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates. Like the pink-eared duck, they will migrate to find water and food sources, but their range is limited to the coastal tropics of northern Australia. Central Park Zoo raised five chicks this year. Two of the chicks are on exhibit in the Tisch Children’s Zoo while the other three have moved to other zoos to begin breeding programs.

Red-breasted merganser
The red-breasted merganser is a sea duck that breeds on inland lakes and streams throughout North America, Iceland, Greenland, and northern Europe and Asia. Outside of the breeding season, red-breasted mergansers are migratory and spend most of their time at sea. Adult red-breasted mergansers feed mostly on live fish, and are known to forage cooperatively in groups by driving schools of fish into shallow water. This is a rare species in zoos, and Central Park Zoo is one of just a few institutions in North America to maintain a breeding population. This summer, eight red-breasted mergansers were hatched and raised at the Central Park Zoo. The adults can be seen in the Polar Seabird Exhibit.

Other species currently on exhibit include: harlequin ducks; bufflehead; king eiders; white-headed ducks; smew; plumed whistling ducks; ruddy shelducks, garganey ducks; East Indian grey teal; American goldeneye; Mandarin ducks; falcated ducks; American black ducks; Baikal teal; and African pygmy geese

Max Pulsinelli – 718-220-5182; mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild – 718-220-5189; sfairchild@wcs.org
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Central Park Zoo - Open every day of the year. General Admission is $12 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, $7 for children 3 to 12, and free for children younger than 3. Total Experience Admission is $18.00 for adults, $15.00 for senior citizens, and $13.00 for children 3 to 12. 4-D theater admission is $4.00 for members and $7.00 for non-members. Zoo hours are 10am to 5:30 pm, April through October, and 10am – 4:30pm daily, November through April. Tickets are sold until one half-hour before closing. The zoo is located at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street. For further information, please call 212-439-6500 or visit www.centralparkzoo.com

The Wildlife Conservation Society
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. www.wcs.org .