December 09, 2016 - A proposed power transmission line at the edge of the Tonle Sap Floodplain Protected Landscape (TSFPL), which might be constructed as early as next year, would pose a new threat to the Critically Endangered Bengal Florican.
The Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) is listed on IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered, with a global population of fewer than 800 individuals. Cambodia is the most important country worldwide for Bengal Florican conservation. In 2012, University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers showed that approximately 432 Bengal Floricans remain in the country.
“With 15 satellite tagged Bengal Floricans, we found that the Bengal Floricans migrate across the route of the proposed power line twice each year as they move between their breeding and non-breeding grounds,” said Dr Paul Dolman from UEA.
“Some Floricans may cross the power line more frequently, as current plans are for it to be built close to a protected area – the Northern Tonle Sap Protected Landscape – that supports Cambodia’s largest, and most importantly, stable, population of the species,” he added.
Power transmission lines are a particular problem for large, slow flying birds that cannot maneuver easily, such as bustards, storks, cranes and raptors, all of which use the Tonle Sap floodplain. Bustards, which include the Bengal Florican, are among the most likely birds to collide with overhead lines, due to having a narrow binocular view when looking ahead. Researchers from UEA and the University of Lisbon compiled data showing serious impacts of power lines on other species of bustard in Central Asia, South Africa, and Europe, demonstrating the impacts likely to affect the Cambodian Bengal Florican population.
“Protecting the remaining population of Bengal Floricans in Cambodia is critical for the survival of this species. The power line company must employ mitigation techniques that ensure the Bengal Florican can co-exist with the power line,” said Mr. Hong Chamnan, Bengal Florican Conservation Project Manager.
The Northern Tonle Sap Protected Landscape was established in 2016 from the Bengal Florican Conservation Areas that had previously been managed by the Forestry Administration, and covers 31,159 hectares in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces. WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) works closely with the Ministry of Environment to conserve the NTSPL and the important wildlife that it supports, including the Bengal Florican, through various conservation activities such as assisting law enforcement, bird nest protection, sustainable agriculture, and raising community awareness.
“Re-routing the power line in areas where it would otherwise go close to the sites where the Bengal Floricans breed is the most effective way to prevent or reduce the chance of Bengal Floricans being killed by flying into the power line,” said Simon Mahood, WCS Cambodia’s Senior Technical Advisor.
“Bird flight deflectors, disks or spirals that make it easier for the birds to see the power line, could also be fitted along the wires, to reduce the number of birds that would otherwise be killed,” he added.
The Bengal Florican’s conservation would not be possible without the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Chester Zoo, North Star Science & Technology, Ford Motor Company, National Avian Research Centre−International Fund for Houbara Conservation.