New wolf snake species discovery in Cambodia


This video from Thailand is called Common Wolf Snake – Lycodon capucinus; about a relative of the newly discovered snake.

From Wildlife Extra:

Distinctive new wolf snake species discovered in Cambodia

A new wolf snake species has been discovered in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains.

Wolf snakes are nonvenomous members of the family Colubridae, and named after their large teeth that are found in both jaws.

This distinctive, almost chequered, coloured snake was discovered by Cambodian herpetologist Neang Thy, Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) research adviser in Phnom Penh, in a high altitude montane rainforest.

He said: “Given its unique colouration, submontane habitat and altitudinal separation from other wolf snakes in the region, the species will probably prove to be endemic to the Cardamom Mountains.”

The new snake has been named Lycodon zoosvictoriae by Thy in honour of the Zoological Parks and Gardens Board of Victoria in Australia, which has supported FFI’s studies in the region for several years.

Thy said: “The support FFI received from Zoos Victoria has helped build the capacity of Cambodian researchers and conservationists and has greatly improved understanding of Cambodia’s reptiles and amphibians. Naming this species in honour of Zoos Victoria will ensure a memorable and historical record of the support they’ve given FFI, both in discoveries and conservation of the Cardamoms.”

This discovery is the eighth new snake to be found in the Cardamom Mountains since survey work began in 2000.

This video is called Elusive New Wolf Snake Species Found In Cambodian Mountain.

The scientific description of this new species is here.

Endangered banteng discovery in Cambodia


This video is called Tribute to the Banteng.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wild cattle thought extinct discovered in Cambodia’s Siem Reap Province

Camera traps have captured six individual banteng (Bos javanicus) in Siem Reap Province, north-western Cambodia, in an area where the endangered wild cattle species was thought to be extinct.

Hoof prints and dung were also found at the site.

The banteng discovery in Cambodia’s north-west is significant, as few populations remain in the region due to hunting and habitat reduction.

Prior to this discovery the species had not been confirmed in this area of Siem Reap Province for many years.

Banteng once roamed in vast herds through Southeast Asia, but now are listed as globally Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and are facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. They are at risk due to poaching inside protected areas, habitat reduction, hybridisation with domestic cattle and infections from domestic cattle diseases.

Today, banteng in Cambodia are found primarily in the eastern plains of Mondulkiri Province and the northern plains of Preah Vihear Province. Three years ago Wildlife Extra reported on the plight of those wild cattle on the eastern plains in Cambodia.

Deputy Provincial Governor of Siem Reap Province, His Excellency Mao Vuthy, said: “Now we have real evidence of banteng, we need to educate local villagers to show the advantages of protecting biodiversity and wildlife.

“Public education about conservation and Community Forest protection training, such as community patrols, and using Global Positioning System technology to record forest crimes and wildlife movements, are important.’’

Cambodia is home to an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 individual banteng, the largest remaining world population of the species, according to 2013 WWF figures. However, its research also shows an 80 per cent decline in Cambodia’s banteng population in the last 24 years.

Flora & Fauna International biologist Mr Eam Sam Un said: “Banteng play a crucial role in many ecological processes, including nutrient cycling, large seed dispersal, maintaining food chains and influencing the composition of plant communities through their grazing and browsing activities.

“They also constitute a critical food source for many large carnivore species, such as tiger, leopard and Asiatic wild dog.’’

Pangolin news from Vietnam


This video is called World Pangolin Day 2014.

From the EDGE Blog:

Pangolin update from Vietnam

For World Pangolin Day 2014 EDGE fellow Tran Quang Phuong has written an update on his work with Sunda pangolin in Vietnam.

The Sunda Pangolin, Manis javanica, is highly valued for its meat and scales. Across Southeast Asia individuals are caught and taken from the forest by local hunters and sold into the extensive illegal wildlife trade.

Often, it is live animals that are transported around. When local authorities uncover these shipments individuals are frequently released into the forest immediately, in poor condition and with no monitoring of their survival. These individuals are often stressed and dehydrated, reducing their chances of survival. They may also be carrying diseases that could spread to wild populations.

The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) in Cuc Phuong National Park remains one of the only places in Vietnam with local conservationists who are experts in pangolin rehabilitation. With many healthy individuals in their care they have been working with employees of Cat Tien National Park Forestry Protection Department (FPD) releasing these animals and monitoring their survival using VHF radio telemetry.

From this work guidelines will be developed that can be implemented by the FPD for the conservation management of this species to encourage: the release of individuals in good condition; post release monitoring of individuals; and the management of releases in a way that will have a positive impact on the population in the park (i.e. establishing a viable population).

So far FPD Rangers have been involved in basic care for injured pangolins, attaching a transmitter, and tracking animals after release. They have also been involved in dealing with any animal mortalities, which is notoriously high after confiscation. Although upsetting, it helps highlight the importance of doing things properly and acts as a reminder of just how difficult this species is to care for.

By monitoring individuals after release we can evaluate what contributes to the success or failure of a release. By tracking their survival, home range size and shape and sleep site selection we can begin to build up an idea of what factors are important to consider in a release program for this species.

Out for four individuals released, two were still alive after three months, unfortunately the fate of the other two was only followed for two weeks (until the transmitter fell off). However, we have found that these released individuals select sleeping sites in tree hollows, either in the trunk or at the roots, or inside hollow logs. It also takes approximately two weeks of exploratory behaviour before they establish a stable home range, which is a good indication they are able to find adequate resources.

We have also been trying to release individuals in locations where male and female home ranges may overlap. We had some (lucky) success with this when a released female was found in the same tree as a wild male! It also provided an opportunity to then tag and track a wild male. From this we found that although the home ranges of our released individuals were stable, they were small. These individuals had been in captivity for three years so it would be interesting to monitor the behaviour of those released as soon as their rehabilitation was complete to see what size home range they establish. Ideally, this is something that will be carried on by the FPD staff.

In order to develop release programs further, information needs to be gathered from a wild population. Once we have an idea of what a wild population looks like in terms of distribution, abundance and genetic make-up it can be used as a reference for release programs.

As with many species, a priority for the Sunda Pangolin is a decrease in hunting pressure. As this involves a long term attitudinal change, reinforcing depleted populations in areas that are well protected is a proactive and imperative move for this species.

Cambodia: I was so busy watching the pangolin happily slurp up dead ants that it took me a few minutes to realize it was missing one of its back legs. I was at the Pangolin Rehabilitation Center outside of Phnom Penh, which CI helped open in 2012 to provide a temporary home for “scaly anteaters” like this one that was rescued from the illegal wildlife trade: here.

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Good Cambodian bird news


This video is called Wild Haven of Cambodia.

From BirdLife:

Cambodian jewel protected

By Martin Fowlie, Sat, 01/02/2014 – 07:31

The Royal Government of Cambodia has declared the creation of the Siem Pang Protected Forest. Covering an area of 66,932 hectares, the new Protected Forest covers almost half the Western Siem Pang Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.

The declaration of this new Protected Forest on 24 January 2014, comes after several years of lobbying by BirdLife Cambodian Programme and the Forestry Administration. Siem Pang was the missing part of a jigsaw of protected forests that now extends across 700,000 hectares in southern Laos, northern Cambodia and western Vietnam, together making one of the largest protected landscapes in South-East Asia.

“We congratulate the Royal Government of Cambodia for designating part of this unique Important Bird and Biodiversity Area as a Protected Forest”, said Dr Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International’s Chief Executive, “and we look forward to supporting the management of this site in the future.”

BirdLife International and Cambodia’s Forestry Administration have been working together at this site for more than 10 years, conserving its wildlife and habitats, and helping local communities to manage their livelihoods sustainably. Siem Pang is the first new Protected Forest declared in Cambodia for four years.

“Designating Siem Pang as a Protected Forest will not only provide safe refuge to wildlife but it will benefit local communities in the longer term”, said Dr Keo Omaliss, Director of Department wildlife and biodiversity of Forestry Administration. “The Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to establishing more Protected Forest in the near future”

The wider site supports populations of five Critically Endangered bird species, including the world’s largest population of White-shouldered Ibis and one of the largest populations of Giant Ibis, as well as populations of three vulture species.

“We are delighted by this result and it is a crucial step to protect these species”, said Bou Vorsak, BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme Manager. “To secure the globally important populations of these Critically Endangered birds, we now must work together to start sustainable management initiatives in the adjacent area”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Prince Albert II of Monaco foundation, Giant Ibis Transport, Stephen Martin, and the Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture of Taiwan support BirdLife’s work at this site.

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Good white-shouldered ibis news in Cambodia


This video is called White-shouldered Ibis, Cambodia, 2012.

From BirdLife:

Record numbers of White-shouldered Ibis in Cambodia

By Martin Fowlie, Mon, 04/11/2013 – 11:32

A record number of White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni have been recorded in the wild in Cambodia, making the known global population larger than previous studies suggested. These results once again confirm that Cambodia is the stronghold for this Critically Endangered species.

The count of 973 follows nearly a decade’s conservation work by international and local NGOs and government agencies. Since coordinated counts began in 2009, the known population for this species has been increasing every year, partly as a result of conservation actions, such as nest protection to improve chick survival, and partly due to increased survey effort and better knowledge of roost locations.

The future of this species is far from certain. Many of these birds are at risk of losing their habitat from imminent changes in land use and currently over three-quarters of the birds were censused on roosts outside the boundaries of legally protected areas. The counts have identified Western Siem Pang Proposed Protected Forest as the most important site.

With a global population of around 1200 birds, Cambodia could hold as much as 97% of the world’s White-shouldered Ibises and the country is of vital importance for the species’ conservation.

Though the recent counts are positive news there is still significant work to be done if this species is to be safeguarded.

Good giant ibis news from Cambodia


This video is called Wild Haven of Cambodia.

From AFP news agency:

August 20, 2013

New endangered giant ibis found in Cambodia

1 hour ago

Jubilant conservationists expressed hope Tuesday for the survival of the critically-endangered giant ibis after a nest of the bird species was discovered in a previously unknown habitat in northeastern Cambodia.

Habitat loss and poaching has pushed the giant ibis to the edge of extinction, with around only 345 of the reclusive creatures—distinctive for their bald heads and long beaks—left anywhere in the world, 90 percent of them in Cambodia.

A farmer in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province discovered the nesting site a few kilometres inland in the biodiverse Mekong Flooded Forest area last month, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement.

An inspection team from the WWF later saw an adult bird sitting on the nest with two eggs.

“The discovery of the giant ibis nest on the Mekong is extremely significant because it provides hope for the species’ survival,” said Sok Ko, Forestry Administration official and Bird Nest Project officer with WWF.

The giant ibis—or Thaumatibis Gigantea—was listed on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1994 as critically endangered, the group said, with its habitat limited to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

“For giant ibis to survive… it is key to secure breeding groups in more places. This one nest is part of securing the future for the species,” Gerry Ryan, WWF’s Research Technical Advisor, told AFP.

The group warned that threats remain as the species’ lowland forest habitats continue to be drained and stripped for agriculture, while its eggs are sometimes poached by villagers.

But conservation efforts in the Mekong area where the nest was discovered have brought some reward, Ryan added.

“Giant ibises don’t like to be disturbed and are very shy—they tend to live far from human settlements,” he said.

“The presence of Cambodia’s national bird is further proof that efforts in managing and conserving the area and its biodiversity are worthwhile and having an effect.”

New bird species discovery in Cambodian capital


Cambodian tailorbird, photo AFP: Ashish John

From BirdLife:

Hiding in plain sight: New species of bird discovered in capital city

Tue, Jun 25, 2013

A team of scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International, and other groups have discovered a new species of bird with distinct plumage and a loud call, living not in some remote jungle, but in a capital city of 1.5 million people.

Called the Cambodian Tailorbird Orthotomus chaktomuk, the previously undescribed species was found in Cambodia’s urbanised capitol Phnom Penh and several other locations just outside of the city including a construction site.

Scientists describe the new bird in a special online early-view issue of the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail.

The grey wren-sized bird with a rufous cap and black throat lives in dense, humid lowland scrub in Phnom Penh and other sites in the floodplain. Its scientific name ‘chaktomuk’ is an old Khmer word meaning four-faces, perfectly describing where the bird is found: the area centered in Phnom Penh where the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac Rivers come together.

Only tiny fragments of floodplain scrub remain in Phnom Penh, but larger areas persist just outside the city limits where Cambodian Tailorbird is abundant. The authors say that the bird’s habitat is declining and agricultural and urban expansion could further affect the bird and its habitat. BirdLife will assess the species’ conservation status for the Red List on behalf of the IUCN.

This same dense habitat is what kept the bird hidden for so long. Lead author Simon Mahood of WCS began investigating the new species when co-author Ashish John, also of WCS, took photographs of what was first thought to be a similar, coastal species of tailorbird at a construction site on the edge of Phnom Penh. The bird in the photographs initially defied identification. Further investigation revealed that it was an entirely unknown species.

“The modern discovery of an un-described bird species within the limits of a large populous city – not to mention 30 minutes from my home – is extraordinary,” said Mahood. “The discovery indicates that new species of birds may still be found in familiar and unexpected locations.”

The last two decades have seen a sharp increase in the number of new bird species emerging from Indochina, mostly due to exploration of remote areas. Newly described birds include various babbler species from isolated mountains in Vietnam, the bizarre bare-faced bulbul from Lao PDR and the Mekong wagtail, first described in 2001 by WCS and other partners.

Co-Author Jonathan C. Eames OBE of BirdLife International’s said: “Most newly discovered bird species in recent years have proved to be threatened with extinction or of conservation concern, highlighting the crisis facing the planet’s biodiversity.”

See also here. And here. And here.

New Mekong region animal discoveries


This video is called New Species Thrive in Mekong.

From Wildlife Extra:

126 new species identified in Mekong region in 2011 – Including Beelzebub bat

Extraordinary new species discoveries in the Greater Mekong
December 2012. A new bat named after its devilish appearance, a subterranean blind fish, a ruby-eyed pit viper, and a frog that sings like a bird are among the 126 species newly identified by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2011, and described in a new WWF report, Extra Terrestrial.

Bats

Among the ten species highlighted in the report is the aptly named Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, a diminutive but demonic-looking creature known only from Vietnam. Beelzebub’s bat, like two other tube-nosed bats discovered in 2011, depends on tropical forest for its survival and is especially vulnerable to deforestation. In just four decades, 30 per cent of the Greater Mekong’s forests have disappeared.

“While the 2011 discoveries affirm the Mekong as a region of astonishing biodiversity, many new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats,” said Nick Cox, Manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Programme. “Only by investing in nature conservation, especially protected areas, and developing greener economies, will we see these new species protected and keep alive the hope of finding other intriguing species in years to come.”

Walking fish

A new ‘walking’ catfish species (Clarias gracilentus), discovered in freshwater streams on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, can move across land using its pectoral fins to stay upright while it wiggles forward with snake-like movements. And a dazzling miniature fish (Boraras naevus), just 2cm in length, was found in southern Thailand and named after the large dark blotch on its golden body (naevus is Latin for blemish).

A pearly, rose-tinted fish from the carp family was found in the Xe Bangfai catchment, a Mekong River tributary in Central Laos that runs 7km underground through limestone karst. The cave-dwelling Bangana musaei is totally blind and was immediately assessed as vulnerable due to its restricted range.

The Mekong River supports around 850 fish species and the world’s most intensive inland fishery. Laos’ determination to construct the Xayaburi dam on the mainstream of the Mekong River is a significant threat to the Mekong’s extraordinary biodiversity and the productivity of this lifeline through Southeast Asia that supports the livelihoods of over 60 million people.

“The Mekong River supports levels of aquatic biodiversity second only to the Amazon River,” added Cox. “The Xayaburi dam would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signalling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered.”

Frogs

A new species of tree frog discovered in the high-altitude forests of northern Vietnam has a complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. While most male frogs attract females with repetitive croaks, Quang’s tree frog spins a new tune each time. No two calls are the same, and each individual mixes clicks, whistles and chirps in a unique order.

When it comes to frogs in the genus Leptobrachium, the eyes have it. Among its more than 20 species, there is a remarkable variety of eye colouration. Leptobrachium leucops, discovered in 2011 in the wet evergreen and cloud forest in Southern Vietnam, is distinguished by its striking black and white eyes.

21 reptiles

A staggering array of 21 reptiles was also newly discovered in 2011, including the ruby-eyed green pit viper (Trimeresurus rubeus) in forests near Ho Chi Minh City. This new jewel of the jungle also winds its way along the low hills of southern Vietnam and through eastern Cambodia’s Lang Bian Plateau.

Pygmy python

A short-tailed python species was found in a streambed in the Kyaiktiyo Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar. The elusive pygmy python (Python kyaiktiyo) has not been found again despite repeated surveys, so little is known of its ecology, distribution or threats. However, the 1.5 metre-long python is likely at risk from threats faced by other pythons, including habitat loss, and illegal hunting for meat, skins, and the exotic pet trade.

Poaching

“Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of many species across Southeast Asia,” added Cox. “To tackle this threat, WWF and TRAFFIC launched a global campaign this year to increase law enforcement, impose strict deterrents and reduce demand for endangered species products.”

1,710 new species since 1997!

Extra Terrestrial spotlights 10 species newly identified by science, among the 82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 5 mammals all discovered in 2011 within the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan. Since 1997, an incredible 1,710 new species were newly described by science in the Greater Mekong.

Scarlet snake discovery in Cambodia


This video, recorded in Cambodia, shows a snake related to the newly discovered species.

The newly discovered snake in Cambodia. Credit: Neang Thy/FFI

From Wildlife Extra:

Scarlet snake discovered in Cambodia

Named after the country in which it was found, the Cambodian kukri snake is already under threat from habitat loss

July 2012. Snakes are reviled in Cambodian culture and the news that there is yet another species around will make few happy. But, pretty and harmless to humans as it is, Cambodia‘s newest snake might well find a soft spot in the Khmer heart. Discovered and described by Cambodian national Neang Thy, American scientist Dr Lee Grismer and Fauna & Flora International’s Senior Conservation Biologist Dr Jenny Daltry, the latest new species of reptile from the country has been named after Cambodia (or Kampuchea). The Cambodian Kukri snake, or Oligodon kampucheaensis, is perhaps set to become a Cambodian reptilian mascot.

Neang Thy, a Ministry of Environment officer working with Fauna & Flora International (FFI) as a herpetologist, explained why he felt compelled to name the species in this way. “Cambodian science was smashed under the Pol Pot regime, and only now are we picking up the pieces. It gave me a great sense of pride to both discover and describe this species, and to name it in honour of my country. Most kukri snakes are dull-coloured, but this one is dark red with black and white rings, making it a beautiful snake.”

Egg eating snake from the Cardamom Mountains

Kukri snakes are so named because their curved rear fangs are similar in shape to the Nepalese knife known as a kukri. These long fangs are designed to puncture eggs – one of the kukri snake’s principle foods – which are swallowed whole. They are forest species, and in keeping with their known ecology, this one was found in the rainforests of the Cardamom Mountains in the south-west of the country.

Although part of Cambodia’s protected areas system, this area is under threat from habitat loss and land conversion. “The Cambodian kukri snake is the second new reptile we have described this year in Cambodia,” said Berry Mulligan, FFI’s Cambodia Programme Country Manager. “This shows how important it is that we fight to conserve this area.”