By Mengey Eng
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| July 20, 2017
Preah Vihear (20 July 2017) - Conservationists from the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and local communities found the first Globally Endangered Masked Finfoot nest for four years on the Memay River in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary (KPWS) in Preah Vihear Province. This site is the only confirmed breeding location in Cambodia for this very rare species.
Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personatus) is listed on IUCN Red List as Globally Endangered, because its global population is declining at an alarming rate. This riverine species lives only in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Its global population is less than 1,000 individuals, while little is known about numbers in Cambodia.
“After educating local communities about the Masked Finfoot, the Research team worked together with Community Protected Area committee and other local community members to search for the species. We then found a Masked Finfoot on the nest near the Memay River in KPWS, Preah Vihear Province,” said Rours Vann, MoE/WCS Research Team Leader in KPWS.
“I am proud of this finding because it is very rare species. We have not recorded any nests since 2013. Through nest protection program, we have hired two local villagers to protect the nest to prevent any harm and disturbance,” he added.
“Department of Environment staff in KPWS work closely with community wildlife rangers employed by WCS to protect and monitor river networks for Masked Finfoot. DoE rangers conduct law enforcement patrol in key breeding and feeding habitat,” said Song Chansocheat, Deputy Director of Environment in Preah Vihear Province.
The Northern Plains landscape in Preah Vihear Province 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, Masked Finfoot 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 threats of hunting and egg/chick collection.
“This finding provides further evidence that Northern Plains of Cambodia is an important biodiversity hotspot and critical area for conserving breeding habitat for globally threatened water birds,” said Alistair Mould, WCS’s Technical Advisor to Northern Plains of Cambodia.
“Masked Finfoots are globally endangered and extremely rare in Cambodia, targeted riverine habitat protection at key breeding locations like the Mamay river is required to ensure the survival of these remaining Cambodian populations.” he added.
Nest protection in the Northern Plains of Cambodia would not be possible without supports from Sam Veasna Centre (SVC), the European Union and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.