Preah Vihear (04 July 2017) – A nest with seven eggs of the Globally Endangered White-winged Duck was recorded in Northern Plains of Cambodia for the first time in five years after three local men informed to conservationists of Ministry of Environment (MoE), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The nest was located inside a Koki tree hollow about 12 meters from the ground in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary (KPWS) near Sambo Village, Sr-yorng Commune, Kulen District, and Preah Vihear Province.
White-winged Duck (Asarcornis scutulata) is listed on IUCN Red List as Globally Endangered, primarily because its global population is in decline due to habitat loss, disturbance along key stretches of riverine habitat and illegal poaching. The global population of this enigmatic duck species is estimated to be between 250 – 1,000 individuals, while little is currently known about the numbers present in Cambodia.
“We saw a White-winged Duck on the tree while walking to the rice field. We reported to WCS team because we know it is endangered bird. They came to check the nest and hired three of us to guard it with direct cash payment in return,” said Mr. In Long, 36, who found the nest.
“We are so happy to be nest protectors and will work hard to protect this nest from any human disturbances, eggs collection or other small carnivores. We are happy to fulfill this role and trying our best to achieve the goal,” he added.
The Northern Plains landscape in Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia consists of KPWS, Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary and Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary, and is home to many globally endangered bird species. Those include Critically Endangered Giant Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis, and three species of vulture, globally Endangered White-winged Duck, and many other important wildlife. WCS is working in collaboration with the MoE to conserve Northern Plains’ forests and wildlife through a variety of conservation interventions. The Bird Nest Protection Programme is a payments scheme designed to combat the threat of egg and chick collection. Under the scheme, local people living in two protected areas in the Northern Plains of Cambodia are offered conditional payments if they successfully locate, monitor and protect nests until fledging. From 2002 until 2016, 3,813 nests and 6,806 fledglings have been safeguarded over an area greater than 4,000 km². Based on previous studies of this scheme (Clements et al. 2013), we estimate that approximately 3700 additional globally threatened birds have fledged as a direct result of this programme, at an approximate cost of $134 each.
“After receiving the information, our team went to observe the nest and are so excited to see its mother on a big tree and has laid seven eggs already,” said Rours Vann, Research Team Leader in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary between MoE and WCS.
“White-winged Duck is endangered, so more protection is needed to conserve the species from extinction. Nest and habitat protection are important to safeguard their lives and breeding. To avoid any disturbances and harms, we have hired those villagers to guard it. Our team will go to monitor the nest regularly as well,” he added.
Nest protection in the Northern Plains of Cambodia would not be possible without supports from Akron Zoo, Sam Veasna Centre (SVC), the European Union and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies (MACP).