Rare Cambodian turtle freed into the wild

This 24 April 2019 video says about itself:

Rare Giant Soft-Shell Turtle Released Into the Wild | Nat Geo Wild

A Cambodian community is attempting to save this endangered species, which can grow to the size of a small sofa.

Endangered vultures discovered in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

Red-headed vulture, female

Siem Pang wildlife sanctuary, Cambodia, 4 February 2017

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Three critically endangered red-headed vulture nests discovered in Cambodia’s Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary

January 29, 2018

Three nests of the Critically Endangered Red-headed vulture were found in January in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary by conservationists from the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and local communities. The population of this species in Cambodia is possibly less than 50 individuals. These nest discoveries give hope that conservation efforts may save this species from extinction.

Global vulture populations are declining at an alarming rate. Cambodia’s three vulture species — Red-headed (Sarcogyps calvus), Slender-billed (Gyps tenuirostris), and White-rumped (Gyps bengalensis) — are all listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Cambodia supports the largest population of vultures in Southeast Asia, but there [are] only a few hundred individuals left in the country.

As part of the Bird’s Nest Protection Program, WCS has employed six community members to protect the nests of these vultures. Local people are now incentivized to protect the Critically Endangered species until their eggs hatch and the chicks are able to leave the nest — as opposed to taking the chicks to sell.

“I am eager to protect vulture nests because I can generate income to support my family and I’m able to join in conserving this species that is now very rare”, said Soeng Sang, a Red-headed Vulture nest protector. “I have spent much of my time staying near the nest site to prevent any disturbances or harm. I am committed to saving this bird for the next generation.”

Increased levels of hunting, forest loss and land conversion, land encroachment and selective logging negatively affect the birds through loss of nesting sites and reduction in prey availability. In addition, at least 30 vultures were killed over the past five years in Cambodia due to widespread indiscriminate use of deadly poisons by villagers in and around water sources to catch birds and … small mammals, which is severely affecting the vulture population. “The Red-headed vulture is a very rare species; they are facing a high risk of extinction,” said Tan Sophan, WCS’s Vulture Project Coordinator in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary. “Besides nest protection, we also organize ‘vulture restaurants‘ to feed vultures every month.”

Vulture restaurants are sites where the birds are periodically provided supplementary feedings. This activity is a collaboration between the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery, and a consortium of NGOs, and also doubles as a tool to raise awareness of their importance to the landscape and human health.”In addition, tourists visiting the restaurant with Sam Veasna Centre have significantly contributed to saving the species and improving local livelihoods”, Sophan added.

Cambodian elephants saved from Pentagon bomb crater

The Cambodian elephants in the bomb crater, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Herd of elephants rescued from Cambodian bomb crater

Today, 16:18

A rescue team has saved a herd of elephants after four days in an old bomb crater. The endangered animals would have been killed by hunger if villagers would not have discovered them.

The eleven animals, including a youngster, got stuck when they tried to drink from the 3 meter deep crater. The pit was made many years ago [during the Vietnam war] by a United States bombing in the country.

The elephants were freed by digging a path from the pit. Meanwhile, water was also sprayed into the hole to dilute the mud. After their rescue, the animals walked back into the woods.

The rescue of 11 Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) from a mud hole inside the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia, on 24th March 2017 avoided a tragedy for wildlife conservation in Cambodia: here.

Saving birds in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

22 July 2011

Birdwatchers from across Asia and beyond flock to Cambodia‘s forests for a glimpse of two of the world’s rarest birds: the giant ibis and its cousin the white-shouldered ibis. Each year, the birders follow the birds to their nesting grounds at the outskirts of Tmatboey, a rural Cambodian village some 200 miles north of Phnom Penh. Under the protection of the Tmatboey villagers, the ibises breed, nest, and raise their chicks. In return for their contribution to the birds’ conservation, WCS worked with the community to develop an eco-tourism project. This partnership has helped bring the village a new perspective on their sacred forest.

From BirdLife:

Protected zones offer refuge for Cambodia’s endangered ibises

By Alex Dale, 2 Feb 2017

In a process that has been six years in the making, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, has approved plans to divide Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary’s 250,000 hectares of land into four different zones, with added protection for areas that are significant to globally threatened species.

It’s a move designed to ensure that the sanctuary’s most vital forest habitats are protected from illegal logging and human disturbance, while simultaneously making provisions for sustainable land use and development for local communities that depend on the protected areas’ land for their livelihood.

Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Cambodia’s largest protected areas, and is among the first to be zoned in accordance to The Law on Nature Protection. This came into effect in February 2008 and requires protected areas to be divided into four different management zoning systems:

Core Zones – areas of the park that shelter Critically Endangered species or contain fragile ecosystems; access to these zones is prohibited except for officials and researchers;
Conservation Zones – important conservation areas that lie adjacent to the Core Zones and as such act as a buffer zone, protecting the Core Zones from small-scale land encroachment;
Sustainable Use Zones – areas of high economic value where, after consultation, development and investment opportunities may be permitted;
Community Zones: reserved for local communities and may already include residential lands and paddy fields.

Under the zonation plan 42,000 hectares has been designated as a Core Zone, for the sanctuary is home to five Critically Endangered bird species; these include the Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea and the White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni, two birds that have been hit hard by the rapid reforestation and habitat fragmentation that has occurred in South-east Asia in the last few decades.

Lomphat also supports three Critically Endangered vultures; White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris and Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus in addition to several globally-threatened large mammal species, including Eid’s Deer Recervus eldi  and Banteng Bos javanicus.

These species are threatened by hunting, illegal logging and small-scale land encroachment, activities that have increased in recent years as a result of the Cambodian government allocating at least 50,000 hectares of land within the sanctuary to domestic and foreign investors in the form of Economic Land Concessions (ELCs). ELCs are a contentious issue within Cambodia, not only creating land use conflicts with local villagers, but also threatening the country’s most precious habitats. BirdLife International lead the zonation planning process together with the People Resources Conservation Foundation .

“We supported the Ministry of Environment to develop this zonation plan since 2012 with the objective of protecting the remaining core area of the sanctuary from being converted and destroyed,” says Bou Vorsak, Cambodia Programme Manager, BirdLife International. “This zonation plan will prevent new and enlarged economic land concessions. The plan also allocates areas for local communities to establish their own conservation areas and affords the right to sustainably use natural resources.”

Bird conservation in Cambodia

This 2015 video is called Birds of Cambodia. Education & Conservation.

From BirdLife:

A Phnom-enal award for our team in Cambodia

By Irene Lorenzo, 30 Nov 2016

BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme, which has saved several Critically Endangered from extinction, has received a prestigious award from the biodiverse country’s government.

Five Critically Endangered bird species protected. Ten projects supporting vital bird habitats.  Countless new protected areas declared. In thirteen years, BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme has managed to revitalize the natural landscape of this biodiverse South-East Asian country by leaps and bounds. Unsurprisingly, the Cambodian government is now awarding them a prestigious medal in recognition to their years of dedication.

The Cambodia Programme was started over a decade ago by a small group of conservationists seeking to promote habitat and species conservation by working with governments and other organizations. Today it’s lead by a team of fifty local people who work at the forefront of nature conservation in the country.

Species protection is one of the main drivers of their work, with five Critically Endangered bird species benefitting from their projects: Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea, White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni, White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris and Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus.

Habitat protection is the other main focus of the Programme, with about 10 projects supporting six Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in Cambodia. Earlier this year, the Cambodia Programme was a key player in the creation of the new transnational Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the above-named Critically Endangered bird species – including 50% of the global population of White-shouldered Ibis and 10% of the world’s Giant Ibis. Two other important wetlands for birds in the Lower Mekong, identified by BirdLife as IBAs, were officially declared protected areas thanks to the programme.

Only last year, the extraordinary waterbird colony of Prek Toal was recognized as Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, successfully disentangling 8 years of institutional conflict. Prek Toal is the largest waterbird colony in South-East Asia, but it had become a fraction of its size as a result of decades of egg and chick collecting. By involving egg collectors and employing them as nest guardians, the Programme found a solution that worked for both birds and people. The protection continues to this day and the site now supports more than 50,000 breeding waterbirds of at least ten globally threatened species, including Southeast Asia’s only breeding Spot-billed Pelicans Pelecanus philippensis, nearly half of the world’s Greater Adjutants Leptoptilos dubius and thousands of storks and darters.

The Programme team goes beyond just declaring protected areas by also helping the government develop management plans for them. This is how they ensure these areas are managed properly. Currently they support the management of four protected areas: Siem Pang Kang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary, Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary, Boeung Prek Lapouv Protected Landscape and Anlung Pring Protected Landscape.

The team is ecstatic to receive the Sahametrei medal – a prestigious award given by the Cambodian government to organizations who contribute their energy and spirit to Cambodia’s social interest. Nominated by the Ministry of Environment, the medal and a certificate signed by the Prime Minister was awarded in a ceremony in Phnom Pehn this week. It’s an award that reflects the team’s tireless work, and gives them renewed energy to continue conserving the country’s stunning natural resources.

Conservation news from Cambodia

This video from Cambodia says about itself:

3 December 2015

BirdLife International conducts numerous conservation projects in Siem Pang to protect the habitat of ibis, vulture and many other wild animals. This is a short montage of footage from our work with BirdLife in Siem Pang.

By Shaun Hurrell, 20 May 2016:

Huge protected forest jigsaw completed

The picture on the jigsaw box is of an extensive swathe of unified nature, beyond borders, of thriving wildlife and local communities across 700,000 hectares in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, together making one of the largest protected landscapes in South-East Asia.

For the last couple of years, one of the most valuable jigsaw pieces in the world was missing – a large deciduous forest called Western Siem Pang in northern Cambodia.

Now it has finally been slotted into place. Welcome to the new Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary.

In this newly protected forest you will find Endangered Eld’s Deer roaming and not one – but five – Critically Endangered bird species breeding, including 50% of the global population of White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni and 10% of the world’s Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea. You will also find a dedicated BirdLife team, skilfully covering huge distances every day on urban motorbikes unsuitable for the sandy terrain, diligently monitoring crucial forest pool habitats, or working with an enforcement team to report illegal logging and confiscate wood and wildlife. Some rangers, like Mem Mai, are ex-hunters and have an ear so well-trained that they can monitor bird song over the noise of the motorbike engine.

Ask Project Officer Eang Samnang, and he will tell you the exact location of all three Critically Endangered vulture species’ nests. Or that the vulture ‘restaurant’ they created to supplement vulture feeding (due to a decline in large wild mammals) now accounts for 73% of all of Cambodia’s vultures.

In the local villages, you will find Dina Yam, Community Outreach Officer, showing educational films to prevent wildlife poisonings, or helping people build up herds of cattle and buffalo. Lately, the Cambodia team and Forestry Administration had an economic land concession cancelled to prevent the clearance of the forest for plantations and came one step closer to ensuring protected status.

Suffice to say that the BirdLife Cambodia Programme has been working hard for years to protect Western Siem Pang. Celebrations in 2014 saw the designation of the northern half being declared a Protected Forest. But the puzzle was not completed until this week when the Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary was created covering over 65,000 hectares in the remaining southern half of the forest.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen signed the sub-decree establishing Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary on 9th May 2016, with a boundary that follows almost exactly what BirdLife proposed. Now this boundary completes the regional protected area puzzle combining forest in southern Laos, northern Cambodia and western Vietnam.

This latest sub-decree also sees the upgrade of the northern half of Western Siem Pang forest from its Protected Forest status, bringing the total area designated as Wildlife Sanctuary to 132,321 hectares.

“We delight with this decision and BirdLife’s Cambodia team will continue support Ministry of Environment to manage this wildlife sanctuary”, said Bou Vorsak, BirdLife Cambodia Programme Manager.

“This success comes from working in close collaboration with our government partners, the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection of the Ministry of Environment, and thanks to unwavering support from the MacArthur Foundation over the many years.”

“My department is proud to have initiated this protected area designation processs,” said Dr Keo Omaliss, Director of Department Wildlife and Biodiversity of Forestry Administration. “As someone who studied the Giant Ibis as part of my PhD research, I am pleased this population of this Critically Endangered species is now more secure. The Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to establishing more Protected Forest in the near future.” …

The preservation of wild places is often pitched as a battle between the interests of wildlife and the interests of people. It’s not.

It was only by understanding the value of Western Siem Pang forest for threatened birds and for local people that its future is now secure – for both.

Western Siem Pang illustrates this connection very simply. Scattered under the broad leaves of the forest, seasonal pools called trapaengs are central to the lives of people as well as wildlife. In the dry season these trapaengs all but dry up (especially if buffalo aren’t around to wallow) – but they are sources of water, frogs and fish for humans and birds alike, and also provide a wealth of non-timber forest products. Recognising this common interest, BirdLife works with local people and over a decade has established a network of Local Conservation Groups who agreed a Trapaeng Management Protocol to protect the essential pools, alongside the Ibises, Deer and other threatened wildlife like Gaur, Banteng, Clouded Leopard and Red-shanked Douc Langur.

All this shows that of course it is never as simple as slotting a jigsaw piece into place, but the hard work behind BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme certainly makes it look that way.

“The many years of perseverance have paid off at last,” said Jonathan Eames, BirdLife Cambodia.

To find out how this story evolves, and if the Giant & White-shouldered Ibis, Slender-billed, Red-headed & White-rumped Vulture populations bounce back, subscribe to our newsletter below.

This video says about itself:

Buffalo Friend, Documentary film of BirdLife International Cambodian Programme

3 October 2014

Western Siem Pang of Stung Treng province is in the North-Eastern plains of Cambodia. This site supports a number of the rare and critically endangered wildlife species of South-East Asia. At well over 700,000 hectares this landscape is one of largest protected rugged landscapes in the region.

Two critically endangered ibis species are also present at this site. The world’s largest remaining White shouldered Ibis population is found here and also the Giant Ibis, the national bird symbol of Cambodia.

Both local communities and wildlife are heavily dependent of these forests to support their existence.

Cambodian bird paradise gets protection

This video is called The birds in Tonle Sap, Cambodia.

From BirdLife:

Extraordinary waterbird colony – Prek Toal – recognised as Ramsar Site

By Vorsak Bou, Wed, 02/12/2015 – 13:34

South-East Asia’s largest waterbird colony, the 21,342 hectares Prek Toal (Ramsar Site no. 2245 ) has been designated as a Wetland of International Importance (also known as a ‘Ramsar Site’), by the Royal Government of Cambodia and recognised by the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The declaration of Cambodia’s fourth Ramsar Site was made by Prime Ministerial Sub-Decree.

Prek Toal’s Status as South-East Asia’s largest waterbird colony was under threat due to overharvesting of the waterbirds until the Ministry of Environment in close cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation Society started working back in 1999 to conserve the colony. The colony was a fraction of its current size, due to decades of egg and chick collection. Former egg collectors were employed as nest guardians, stationed on tree-top platforms throughout the breeding season to protect and monitor the breeding birds. The protection continues to this day, and Prek Toal now supports more than 50,000 breeding waterbirds of at least ten globally threatened species. These include Southeast Asia’s only breeding Spot-billed Pelicans, nearly half of the world’s Greater Adjutants and many thousands of storks and darters. It is for this reason that Prek Toal has received recognition as a Ramsar Site. Prek Toal attracts thousands of tourists annually and supports the most productive fishery in the Tonle Sap Lake.

“Cambodia should be proud that Prek Toal has been declared as a wetland of international importance. It recognises the years of hard work between government, local communities and NGOs, and opens the door to many more years of this exciting collaboration that has restored Prek Toal to its place as a natural wonder of Cambodia” said Dr. Ross Sinclair, WCS Cambodia Director.

“We congratulate the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia for putting forward Prek Toal as a new Ramsar Site”, said Dr. Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania (Ramsar Secretariat), “and we look forward to supporting the Government of Cambodia to designate more Ramsar Sites in future, and to ensure their sustainable management for the benefit of the local people and the environment.”

30% of Cambodia is covered by wetlands and the majority of them have been identified as globally important, owing to the populations of threatened species that they support. In 1999 Cambodia became a Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. However, up until now only three Ramsar Sites had been designated. They are:

•       Boeng Chhmar and Associated River System and Floodplain (Ramsar Site no. 997);

•       Koh Kapik and Associated Islets (Site no. 998), and;

•       Middle Stretches of Mekong River North of Stoeng Treng (Site no. 999).

“Recognising Prek Toal as a Ramsar Site not only draws attention to the international importance of this wetland but it will be a bridge for Cambodia to nominate more wetlands as Ramsar Sites in the future”, said H.E. Say Samal, Minister of Environment of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

BirdLife International and the Department of Freshwater Wetlands Conservation, Ministry of Environment have been working together towards designating more wetlands as Ramsar Sites in Cambodia since 2008. Prek Toal is the first new Ramsar Site declared in Cambodia in the last sixteen years. “In addition to its biodiversity value, Prek Toal Important Bird and Biodiversity Area delivers ecosystem services such as fish which support the livelihoods of the surrounding floating villages, we are delighted at this result” said Mr. Bou Vorsak, BirdLife Cambodia’s Programme Manager. “Ramsar status for this wetland will attract international interest in this fantastic site.”

Financial support was provided by the Darwin Initiative, a small grant of Japanese Ministry of the Environment, the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund, a Ramsar Small Grant, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Each Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention designates at least one wetland for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance, and these sites are selected by the Party based on the site’s international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. Worldwide, there are 2,240 Ramsar Sites, making this the largest network of wetland managed for conservation.

See BirdLife Data Zone Prek Toal Factsheet.