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The status and distribution of the Masked Finfoot Heliopais personatus—Asia’s next avian extinction? (1 Viewer)


Unknown member
SAYAM U. CHOWDHURY, DING LI YONG, PHILIP D. ROUND, SIMON MAHOOD, ROBERT TIZARD & JONATHAN C. EAMES 2020. The status and distribution of the Masked Finfoot Heliopais personatus - Asia’s next avian extinction? Forktail 36: 16-24.

The Masked Finfoot Heliopais personatus is among Asia’s most threatened waterbirds. The species formerly ranged widely across north-east India, Bangladesh and South-East Asia, but recent records are few. In this review, we aim to address the gaps in knowledge on the conservation status and ecology of the Masked Finfoot by (1) synthesizing recent information on its occurrence in all range states, (2) re-estimating the global population based on best guesses of national populations, and (3) identifying priority conservation actions. Based on a combination of our survey data (Bangladesh) and best-guess estimates from key sites, we estimate the current population at 108–304 individuals, far lower than the last estimate of 600–1,700 individuals in 2009. Our estimate of population size and rate of decline indicates that Masked Finfoot should be uplisted to Critically Endangered. Masked Finfoot may now breed only in Bangladesh and Cambodia, and there have been no records within the past five years in Malaysia and Thailand, where it once occurred regularly, despite a marked increase in observer effort. Habitat loss and disturbance is the single most important threat to the Masked Finfoot (and many riverine waterbird species), given that low-lying, forested wetlands across South-East Asia are increasingly encroached upon by human activities, or are cleared. There is an urgent need to re-survey areas where it was formerly known, especially in Myanmar. All remaining known breeding populations must be adequately protected or it may become Asia’s next avian extinction.
Full text HERE.

Would a captive breeding programme be too early to be implemented? When then?


Well-known member
Thanks for the link - interesting if depressing paper. It seems like better enforcement of protection from hunting, fishing and mangrove clearance in what are ostensibly protected areas would be an obvious first step. There is clearly a problem with underfunding of staff, and pressures from local people who depend on these protected areas to make a living.
Captive breeding with reintroduction into better protected sites elsewhere in their natural range would clearly be desirable too - the problem is how many birds would you need to take from an already critically endangered population to get started, and how much of a risk would it be, given how little people know about their breeding biology.


Well-known member
I suggest first could be nominally protecting, and funding real protection, of unprotected wetlands where it still exists.

I guess this secretive bird may be overlooked or unreported.

About captive breeding - this could be tried, because Asia has some experienced bird parks. Finfoots were never kept in captivity, but in principle should succeed - they seem to be broadly similar to rails in food and ducks in behavior, and both groups thrive in human care.

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