The MOE/WCS ranger program was launched in the Prek Toal Core Area of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve in 2001. Comprising four rangers at the outset, this team has now been expanded to a total of 28 rangers, and has conducted annual monitoring and protection of the breeding bird colonies for the past seven years. The team has been remarkably effective: collection incidences declined in 2002 and 2003, and since 2004 all species have bred successfully. Monitoring is conducted using a simple counting system, based on weekly observations of all nesting birds visible from the observation platforms.
Platform-based monitoring at Prek Toal was supplemented with a more intensive population monitoring program over four years, from 2004 until 2007. This was designed to provide scientifically robust estimates of the bird populations each year, both to measure individual trends and to provide accurate information on the total number of birds present. Since this more intensive monitoring program was implemented simultaneously with the simpler platform-based counting system, it enabled a direct comparison between the two systems to assess their respective suitability for detecting population trends.
Monitoring in the Northern Plains is organised by WCS, with the Forestry Administration (FA) and MOE. Monitoring rangers are hired from local communities and their main tasks are to find and monitor nests and to recruit local people to find and report nests. WCS monitoring coordinators check the quality of nest protection and verify nest success. The system is simple and highly effective, providing direct benefits to local community members who protect nests, and high quality verified data to site managers and researchers. Nest protection has been very effective in removing the principal threats to waterbirds in the Northern Plains and in increasing populations of most species.
Monitoring has recently been improved with the introduction of MIST (Management Information SysTem) software. MIST has been specifically designed to service protected area management needs, providing a standardized, computer-based system for recording wildlife and human activities during ranger patrols, and generating map-based information for use in decision-making and planning. Types of data recorded during patrols and entered into MIST typically include location, date and time of patrol; wildlife and wildlife signs noted; human activities; and any enforcement activities carried out. MIST also incorporates information collected by monitoring rangers who are engaged in wildlife monitoring activities.