By Sok Lak
The white-shouldered ibis is one of the rarest birds in the world just become a little less rare, but rampant habitat loss case serious doubt on whether the species can be saved from global extinction, according to recently research.
The total of 543 birds, counted concurrently in four key sites, was a record exceeding the 428 individuals at the same time last year, according to report of the first 2011 Cambodian census of the White-shouldered Ibis (Pseudibisdavisoni).Nevertheless, the larger number provides little extra long-term security for this species, as up to 85% of these birds are at risk of losing their habitat from change in land use in the near future.
Currently, Cambodia supports at least 95% of the global population of this species and is therefore a vital last stronghold. Meanwhile, the species is extinct from its former range in Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and China, and a very small population in Indonesian Borneo (previously estimated at 30-100 individuals) has also declined.
The survey conducted while the ibises flock together at roosting sites in the wet season which making possible to count them. Roost counts took place across north and east Cambodia, at Western Siem Pang, Stung Treng province; Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces; KulenPromtep Wildlife Sanctuary, PreahVihear province; and the Mekong River between Kratie to Stung Treng town. As the new finding, over 170 birds found at the Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary and Ratanakiri while over 200 birds found at the Siem Pang, Stung Treng province.
“The species needs a mixture of habitat types including open forest, seasonal water holes known as trapaengsand other open habitats. Further habitat loss will leave them with nowhere to go.
Despite the welcome news that the population is larger than originally thought, the latest threats to the species dictate that it will remain Critically Endangered for the foreseeable future,” Hugh Wright, a PhD student at the University of East Anglia UK, explained.
Although nationwide counts of White-shouldered Ibis have provided higher estimates of the Cambodian population than previously known, conservationists are cautious to claim the population has been growing.
“It’s unlikely that the population has been recovering. We have been putting more effort into searching for ibis and getting better coverage of roost sites, hence our larger counts.
The species is still Critically Endangered and at great risk of extinction so we are continuing our efforts to understand and protect the ibis,” Mr Sum Phearun, a Cambodia researcher of Ibis bird said.
White-shouldered Ibis has been considered the most endangered water bird in Southeast Asia and its population declined steeply in the twentieth century by habitat loss and hunting. This kind of bird is classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN (International Union for the Conversation of Nature), of which Cambodia is a member. This means there is a high probability that the species will go extinct in the near future – a route already trod by Cambodia’s national animal, the Kouprey. As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Cambodia has an international duty to conserve this and other endangered species.
A consortium of organizations comprising Bird Life International, the Cambodian Forestry Administration, Department for Administration of Nature Conservation and Protection of Cambodia Ministry of Environment, the People Resources and Conservation Foundation, the University of East Anglia, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wide Fund for Nature all lead efforts to monitor and conserve the Whiteshouldered Ibis and its forest home in Cambodia.
Conservation efforts across the country include guarding of nests, community-based ecotourism, law enforcement to prevent hunting and the “Ibis Rice” scheme, in which local people grow wildlife friendly rice.
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. “A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.” The report from research said.
Source: The Southeast Asia Weekly, September 18-24, 2011, Vol. 5, Issue 38, Page 7