Tierpark Animal News

Off to sunny Spain

Reintroduction to Mallorca of rare marbled ducks from Tierpark Berlin

Every year, German holidaymakers flock to the Balearic island of Mallorca. As of today, 25 new German residents have permanently relocated to this popular spot. Shaking their feathers with excitement, the marbled ducks – nine of which hatched at the Tierpark almost four months ago – took to Spanish waters for the very first time.

Tierpark Berlin teamed up with Opel Zoo Kronberg in Germany and Zoobotánico Jerez in Spain to organise the release of 25 zoo-bred ducks into the wild, marking a positive step in conservation efforts for this species. The small marbled duck is designated “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. That is the same classification given to, for example, the African elephant and the Indian rhinoceros. “Keeping and breeding threatened animal species is one of the cornerstones of modern zoos, so it is a huge cause for celebration when we are able to successfully reintroduce some of these animals into the wild,” explains Christian Kern, a curator responsible for species conservation at the Tierpark. “This demonstrates another important role that zoos play, alongside education and protection.” Tierpark Berlin works with other zoos in a variety of species conservation projects all over the world. In recent decades, for example, bearded vultures and Przewalski’s horses born at the Tierpark have been successfully released into their native habitats. “Experience has taught us that birds cope particularly well with reintroduction to the wild, so we are fairly confident that this effort will be a success,” adds Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem.

The beautiful marbled duck was once found across large parts of Spain. But destruction of its habitat and breeding sites through, for example, the draining of wetlands for agricultural expansion has led to a drastic drop in the duck’s numbers in the wild – in 2007, only three breeding pairs were known to be living in Mallorca. Since 2009, the project has successfully reintroduced almost 100 marbled ducks into S’Albufera Natural Park in the northeast of Mallorca – the most important wetland area in the Balearics. The latest release includes birds bred at Tierpark Berlin (six males and three females) for the first time.
Unlike many other German emigrants to Mallorca, the marbled ducks forgo the bright lights and crowded beaches in favour of quiet, shallow waters with dense reeds. And the future looks promising for the feathered expats: the ducks released in recent years have clearly settled in well, and some breeding pairs have even been discovered.