WCS staff work alongside rangers from the Ministry of Environment (MOE) to protect the nesting colonies of endangered water birds in the Prek Toal flooded forest. In the Tonle Sap floodplain, WCS works with staff from the Forestry Administration and Provincial government, as well as the local community, to protect important wildlife habitat against illegal encroachment.
Many of the rangers in the Prek Toal conservation team are former poachers who are now employed to guard the birds that they used to hunt. The team has been remarkably effective. The monitoring program provides scientifically robust estimates of the bird populations each year, both to measure individual species trends and to provide accurate information on the total number of birds present. Six species have recorded significant increases, with populations in some cases as much as 20 times greater than when the program was initiated. The seventh species shows a stable population. Some species, such as Oriental Darter and Painted Stork, are now colonising new nesting sites in Cambodia and Thailand.
Conservation activities in the Tonle Sap floodplain have focused on the creation of multiple-use protected areas (Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas, or IFBAs) to protect important wildlife habitat. Under the IFBA regulations, the construction of large reservoirs to facilitate commercial dry season rice farming is illegal, but local communities are encouraged to continue with their traditional agricultural practices.
IFBA Provincial Commissions, chaired by senior politicians, have been formed in each province and have met to make key decisions about IFBA management. Most of the IFBAs have now been demarcated, and are being patrolled regularly by joint government/community law enforcement teams. This has resulted in the detection of several illegal land claims and cases of hunting. A community awareness-raising program has also been put in place, and a local NGO hs undertaken a survey to evaluate the subsistence activities undertaken by local communities in some of the IFBAs. An ecological monitoring system has been developed to follow the long-term trends in the Bengal Florican population.