'˜Hours not days' in race to find stolen Mandarin duckling

A valuable duckling stolen from a wetland centre in Co Down will survive only 'hours rather than days' without its specialist diet, the sanctuary has said.

Tuesday, 17th July 2018, 6:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th July 2018, 7:28 pm
A colourful adult male Mandarin duck with an adult female

The two-week-old Mandarin duckling, worth around £600, was only introduced to the public at Castle Espie on Monday but was reported to be missing within hours.

Extensive searches of the area have now been completed and the bird has not been located.

The duck’s keepers are now satisfied it has been deliberately removed from its pen and the theft has been reported to the PSNI.

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Mandarin duckling

Castle Espie is a wetland nature reserve around three miles from Comber on the shores of Strangford Lough.

On Monday, the reserve posted an “urgent appeal” on its Facebook page for help in tracing the missing duckling.

“Today, a Mandarin duckling was taken from inside our duckery,” it said.

“At such a young age, these birds require a special diet, so its safe return is a high priority. If anyone has any information that could help us reunite this duckling with its family, please let us know.”

The Mandarin is an introduced species that originates in East Asia but there are around 2,500 pairs now breeding annually in the UK.

Although not particularly rare, Mandarin ducks are in high demand for private collections in western Europe because they have such ornate plumage.

Castle Espie spokesman Karl Simmonds told the News Letter the members of his team at the sanctuary are “extremely saddened” by the theft.

“We combed the site again and again and it’s not here. There’s no other way it could have gone anywhere else and we have now reported it to the police. We have duckery here which is netted over at the top, so nothing can get in or out.”

Mr Simmonds added: “The bird has a special diet which we buy in, a form of special crumb, so it’s hours not days really.”