Rare Birds Population in Cambodia Shows Signs of Increase

State and non-state actors in wildlife conservation has affirmed the increase in the population of White-shouldered Ibis (Pseudibis davisoni) in Cambodia.

According to a joint press release on Jan. 11, the White-shouldered Ibis is one of the rarest birds in the world and faces a high risk of global extinction if threats continue, including hunting trapping and habitat loss. From a global population of only perhaps 1,000 birds a coordinated census across Cambodia in 2022 recorded 792 birds, nearly 80 percent of the global population.

The White-shouldered Ibis was once found across Southeast Asia, but today the species is restricted to the dry forest landscapes of northern and eastern Cambodia, and another much smaller relict population on the island of Borneo. The species is classed as Critically Endangered, the highest category of threat for a species, on the IUCN Red List.

In 2009, the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Forestry Administration and conservation organisations started to jointly monitor the Cambodian White-shouldered Ibis population by counting the birds in their wet season roosts. Conducted monthly from July to October, the ibis are counted as they first enter and then leave then roost the following morning.

This makes estimating both the population size and the trend possible. From the highest count in 2013 of 973 birds, the numbers recorded have declined to 531 in 2018, a decrease of 47 percent. During those five years Cambodia suffered high levels of deforestation for economic land concessions. This habitat loss, combined with disturbance at nesting and roosting sites, has had a significant impact on the Cambodian population.

In 2022, for the fourth year in a row, the census counts show higher numbers. This result is very encouraging suggesting that conservation measures, or better counting at least in some areas may account for the higher total.

The highest counts are recorded at Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary (377) and the Mekong Flooded Forest (326). Smaller counts are made at Koh Srolay, Kulen Promtep, Lomphat, Srepok and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The annual census surveys are coordinated by the members of the Cambodian Ibis Working Group (CIWG), made up of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry Administration, Angkor Centre for the Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), NatureLife Cambodia, Rising Phoenix, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press