New legless amphibian discovery in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

Amazing Amphibians Vol.1, No.1: Caecilian – Ichthyophis kohtaoensis

This is a common caecilian found in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia. It was almost 38cm big!!! I took this video in Khao Yai National Park in Dec. 2, 2010.

The species in the video is a relative of the species recently discovered in Cambodia.

From Fauna & Flora International:

New legless amphibian discovered in Cambodia

by Louisa McKerrow

14 January 2015

New discovery marks the second caecilian species ever to be found in the country

Scientists have discovered a new species of legless amphibian in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains

The new species, Ichthyophis cardamomensis, is a caecilian, an order of limbless amphibians often mistaken for snakes, with larger species known to grow to 1.5 metres in length. This discovery, at only 30 cm, is linked to the continuing ground-breaking work at the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC) in Phnom Penh, a joint initiative of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

Leading Cambodian FFI herpetologist Neang Thy has been researching amphibians and reptiles since 2003 and is very excited that the I. cardamomensis species has been officially confirmed. This discovery is one of three new species of unstriped Ichthyophis caecelians (the other two were found in Vietnam) introduced in the ‘New Ichthyophis species from Indochina’ paper published recently in the Organisms Diversity & Evolution scientific journal (published by the Society for Biological Systematics).

Between 2009 and 2011, Cambodian species samples were collected by Neang Thy and Dr Lee Grismer from the US La Sierra University with final confirmation from lead paper author, Dr Peter Geissler from the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart, Germany.

Why caecilians are important to conservation

The I.cardamomensis species is only the second caecilian species ever discovered in Cambodia. The other is the striped Koa Tao Island caecilian, I. kohtaoensis, which is also found in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“These discoveries are important to demonstrate that much of Cambodia’s biodiversity remains unknown and unstudied by science, and many more areas need to be searched,” Thy said.

The forested Cardamom Mountains Range represents some of the largest remaining areas of habitat for more than 80 threatened species, including Asian elephant and gaur.

Thy said in recent years the Cardamom region had revealed its extensive reptile and amphibian diversity, including frogs, turtles, lizards and crocodiles.

“We are still learning about this area and the animals in it, since it was a region formerly held by the Khmer Rouge and the mountains were closed to researchers until the 1990s,” he said.

“The Cardamom region is under threat from logging, land concessions, and other habitat destruction, and the danger of any new species, including the new caecilian, is that they may be discovered one year and go extinct the next.”

Caecilians have a valuable role in the ecosystems of tropical and subtropical regions, including providing a food source for the red tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis ruffus). Caecilians eat invertebrates, such as earthworms, ants and termites.

Speaking the science of caecilian

Caecilians are a difficult group to describe as they look so similar, and there are few caecilian experts, so comprehensive morphological and molecular (DNA) analyses is needed to recognise a new species.

Zoologist Dr Peter Geissler said caecilians of the genus Ichthyophis were some of the most poorly known amphibian taxa within Southeast Asia.

“Three distinct unstriped Ichthyophiid species – I. cardamomensis from western Cambodia, I.catlocensis from southern Vietnam, and I.chaloensis from central Vietnam are now described as new species, almost doubling the number of Ichthyophis species known from the Indochinese region, ” he said.

Caecilians are best described as snake or worm-like amphibians that lack limbs. They have the typical amphibian skin that clearly differs from snakes, and they have skull and bones which differs from worms.

To read the ‘New Ichthyophis species from Indochina’ paper in the Organisms Diversity & Evolution magazine click here.

Released gibbons have baby in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

Released Gibbons Have Baby

21 October 2014

We are very excited to announce that our released gibbons, Baray and Saranik, gave birth to their first baby earlier this month! At the end of last year, a pair of endangered pileated gibbons that were raised at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC), were successfully rehabilitated and reintroduced into the protected forest of Angkor Archaeological Park. Since their release, the gibbons have been closely monitored, and it has been quite remarkable how quickly they have adapted to their new life in the forest. They remain a closely bonded pair, are completely self-reliant and now the latest addition to their family is another sign that they have settled into their new home!

The reintroduction of gibbons and the birth of this baby gibbon in particular is an exciting and vital step towards the conservation of this endangered species! Learn more here.

Yellow-bellied weasel camera trap discovery in Cambodia

This video is called Saving Asia’s Wildlife – Cambodia.

From Wildlife Extra:

Yellow-bellied weasel makes a surprise appearance in Cambodia

A research team got more than they expected when they found that their camera traps had captured the first photograph of the elusive yellow-bellied weasel in Cambodia.

The image was captured on a camera trap, which was part of a joint camera trapping initiative by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).

The research team ­­– led by FFI field biologist Channa Phan – were conducting a study of clouded leopards in the Central Cardamoms Protected Forest in southern Cambodia. Finding the weasel outside its usual range came as a surprise, as it was previously believed that the animal was found only in the pine forests of Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“When I first saw this image on the computer screen I wasn’t sure what it was,” explains Phan of the finding. “The picture wasn’t very clear but I could see it was not a yellow-throated marten, which is the only other weasel-like animal known from these mountains. We had to consult with experts before we learned what it was and that it was a new record for Cambodia.”

Will Duckworth, IUCN SSC Red List Authority Coordinator for Small Carnivores, commented on the significance of finding the weasel in this area: “Although the species is known from Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, there are few records,” he says. “This new Cambodian discovery extends the weasel’s southern range.”

Currently the yellow-bellied weasel is rated as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN Red List. However in over 8,000 camera trap nights undertaken by the team, they recoded the weasel just three times, raising questions over whether the weasel [is] truly rare, or whether it is simply very good at avoiding camera traps.

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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