The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), working in collaboration with Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment (MoE), announced this month that 19 nests of the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea) have been discovered during the current breeding season in the Northern Plains of Cambodia in Preah Vihear Province. Community members and conservationists are working together under the Bird Nest Protection Program to protect these nests from human disturbances and other threats.
The giant ibis, Cambodia’s national bird, is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and occurs only in Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. About 99 percent of the global population, estimated to contain 194 mature individuals, lives in Cambodia, making it the most important country in the world for giant ibis conservation.
“As of July this year, our research team has recorded 19 nests of the giant ibis; 14 located in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary and five in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Thong Sokha, Wildlife Research and Monitoring Team Leader for MoE and WCS in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary.
“We expect to find new nests of this species in both sanctuaries because its breeding period is between June and September. Our team is now working closely with local communities to monitor those recorded nests and search for new ones in both sanctuaries,” he added.
WCS, in collaboration with MoE, has been involved in the conservation of the giant ibis and its natural habitat in the Northern Plains of Cambodia through various activities. These include the Bird Nest Protection Program, in which local people and contracted community wildlife rangers are rewarded with direct conservation payments when they locate nests, and receive a bonus if nestlings successfully fledge. The program also promotes awareness about the importance of this species, and installs protective measures on nesting trees that prevent small carnivores from eating eggs.
Said Alistair Mould, WCS’s Technical Advisor to the Northern Plains of Cambodia, “These latest findings represent the continued importance of the Northern Plains landscape in Preah Vihear Province for conserving this Critically Endangered bird.”
Urgent conservation actions for this globally important population include the prioritization of key giant ibis habitat within monthly SMART law enforcement patrols and protected area management plans. In addition, the incorporation of village-level agreements to create Important Ibis Areas (IIAs) is needed to raise awareness and strengthen community participation in the Bird Nest Protection Program.
Nest protection in the Northern Plains of Cambodia is supported by the Akron Zoo, Sam Veasna Centre, the European Union, and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.
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