The white wing wood duck (WWWD) Species Survival Plan (SSP) focus is split between problems of captive population and working to support wild population conservation.
We have previously reported on the problems of the captive population. Currently the U.S. SSP population comprises approximately 70 ducks. The majority are 3 years of age and younger as the population sustains upwards of 85–95% losses from mycobacterial disease in certain large collections. In addition, the SSP population exhibits a genetic diversity of only 30%, since all SSP individuals derive from four or five ducks imported into England in the late 1960s.
Our work over the past 7 years has focused on environmental factors significantly contributing to the mycobacterial losses. We are currently addressing these issues in SSP recommendations and in environmental changes at the major holding site of the SSP population. Currently all SSP WWWDs are privately, non-AZA owned. In addition to the primary holding site, the Akron Zoo, in partnership with Hiram College, has opened a Waterfowl Conservation Center for the study and propagation of WWWDs. We operate the facility under quarantine-like conditions, incubator raise the ducklings and control environmental parameters to minimize mycobacterial exposure. Our goal is to produce future generations free of early mycobacteria exposure and raise them past a possible major risk age to allow an alternative source of breeding-aged individuals for SSP institutions. We are hopeful to establish one or two secondary controlled holding/breeding institutions in the future as well.
In addition to partnering for disease-controlled propagation, Hiram College is also participating with us to continue research into the specie’s apparent mycobacterial susceptibility. Dr. Jodi Moderelli of Hiram College is developing a metabolomics project investigating micro-lipids as biological markers for early disease (mycobacteria) recognition in the WWWD.
In-situ SSP supported conservation of the specie has been minimal in the past, represented by a single-year Malaysian nest box project in 2001. No full-scale surveys of wild populations have been attempted. This past year we have begun to increase SSP involvement with WWWD conservation. With the help of the WWT and the WCS, we determined that our best area to focus our current conservation efforts is Cambodia. The WCS already has a very good general conservation initiative in place in the Northern Plains and protected forest on the Thailand/Laos border. A concept paper was produced for survey and possible nest protection program. The first phase was undertaken in Feb. 2008. We surveyed several areas of the protected forest and had 10 sightings probably constituting three to four pairs of WWWDs. Interviews with local people and rangers also revealed other sightings and good potential habitats. We are now funding three WWWD projects in Cambodia. Project 1 is to build dry season ponds in protected areas to allow better security and survival of ducks. Project 2 involves protecting a portion of a lake commonly used by WWWDs. This project involves cooperative efforts with a local village which utilizes the lake for fishing. In addition to reducing usage of a portion of the lake, a viewing blind is also being constructed to encourage ecotourism and its resultant financial support of the local village that is cooperating on the project. Project 3 involves moving a bridge and relocating a road in the protected forest to move traffic away from a known WWWD feeding pond. Longer-term projects will include nest protection programs and regional education plans.
We are hopeful that a stable enduring population of WWWDs can be secured both in the captive population as well as in isolated areas in the wild.
1. Miguel D. Saggese, Gary Riggs, Ian Tizard, Gerald Bratton, Robert Taylor, and David N. Phalen. 2007. Gross and microscopic findings and investigation of the aetiopathogenesis of mycobacteriosis in a captive population of white-winged ducks (Cairina scutulata). Avian Pathol. 36(5): 415–422.