By Mengey Eng
| October 29, 2017
Preah Vihear (30 October 2017) – During the 2017 breeding season so far conservationists from Ministry of Environment (MoE), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), and local communities have discovered 121 Lesser Adjutant stork nests in Kulen Promtep and Chhep Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Northern Plains of Cambodia. WCS has hired 10 local community teams, under the Bird Nest Protection Program, to locate, monitor and protect nests until fledging. These conditional payments ensure that these globally threatened nests are protected from poachers, egg collection and disturbance.
The Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) is a large stork reaching 130 centimeters (51 inches) in height with a wingspan exceeding two meters. Despite a global upper population estimate of 10,000 mature individuals, these birds are experiencing rapid population declines, and their range is undergoing widespread contraction. As a result, the Lesser Adjutant is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“Thanks to support from Sam Veasna Centre (SVC), Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, and the EU, from the beginning of October until now, our research teams have found 121 Lesser Adjutant nests in the Northern Plains. Of those, 65 are located in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary, and 56 are in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Rours Vann, Wildlife Research Team Leader for WCS and MoE in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary. “We continue searching for new nests and are now working closely with local community teams and rangers to protect the nests and breeding areas.”
Lesser Adjutants nest colonially, preferring the tallest trees in a habitat consisting of a patchwork of deciduous dipterocarpus, semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. The Northern Plains boasts one of the best remaining examples of this highly threatened mosaic habitat.
“Lesser Adjutant is a globally vulnerable species,” said Song Chansocheat, Deputy Director of Environment in Preah Vihear Province. “Protecting their nesting sites is very important to ensure the survival of this rare species in the country. The Northern Plains in Preah Vihear Province is the Lesser Adjutant’s second largest stronghold in the country after Prek Toal Ramsar Site in Battambang Province. People can help conserve our priceless wildlife by stopping the purchase, poison and consumption of wild meat.”
Through the nest protection program, local communities who used to collect eggs for consumption have now become the nest protectors. Som Khoeun is one of 20 local community members WCS has hired to guard Lesser Adjutant nests so far this year. This is the third year he has worked to protect the Lesser Adjutant nests in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary.
“I am so delighted to see these Lesser Adjutant groups come and nest here again. After WCS has hired my son and I, we work hard to protect them from disturbances and poaching. We will try our best to protect the nests until chicks successfully hatch and leave the nest.”
Nest protection in the Northern Plains of Cambodia would not be possible without supports from Akron Zoo, Sam Veasna Centre (SVC), the European Union, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies (MACP).