The Diving Duck (Aythya nyroca) inhabits wetlands from Europe to Asia but is threatened by the destruction of wetland habitats and has markedly declined in Europe. Chiefly migratory, the species is listed as Near Threatened on IUCN Red List and has all but disappeared from Israeli wildlife as a nester. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo has begun a captive breeding and reintroduction program coupled with raising public awareness of wetlands habitat preservation to stimulate a local population recovery.
Diving Ducks are threatened by the degradation and destruction of wetland habitats as a result of excessive drainage; reed cutting and burning; covering of water reservoirs; extensively managed fishponds; and the introduction of non-native species. Other threats include hunting; fires; drowning in fishing nets; hybridization with native species; and disturbance by fishing boats and anglers alongside fringe vegetation which can cause nest abandonment and disruption of the breeding cycle.
Although Diving Ducks are fully protected in 15 European countries and protected from hunting in 6 more, they have received very little conservation action except for some habitat management in Bulgaria and re-introduction schemes in Italy. A long term breeding and reintroduction program in Israel, coupled with raising public awareness of wetlands habitat preservation, will stimulate a regional population recovery in Israel and the greater Middle East region.
Flourishing aquatic bird life is a major factor contributing to the health of wetlands habitats. Because these birds are migratory, a local Diving Duck population recovery will eventually impact on recovery rates across the entire range of this species - stretching from Europe to Asia. This is an opportunity to halt the declining trend of this threatened species before it becomes endangered. If left to decline further, efforts to save the species will become much more difficult.