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Rare vultures found in Kratie

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A red-headed vulture flaps its wings as it perches atop the carcass of a cow in Sambor district, Kratie province, last year. Jeff Schwilk / WWF-Cambodia

Two rare red-headed vultures were found last month by wild animal hunters deep in the forested mountains of Kratie’s Sambo district.

Phlunh Toeur, 20, told reporters last weekend that he spotted the vultures, listed as an “extremely endangered species” by World Wildlife Fund, in their nest in the flooded forest area of the mountains.

“I was surprised upon seeing it on the top of a big tree, and reported it to WWF workers,” he said.

Following Toeur’s discovery, WWF members and reporters were led into the patch where he had spotted the nest, finding a female feeding her two chicks.

The chicks were reported to be about 15 days old when discovered, but it is still unknown whether they are male or female.

Toeur is one of two vulture guardians employed by the WWF in the area to help protect and watch over the rare birds, working alongside Forestry Administration officials since 2012.

“I appreciate taking care of the vultures because I am able to get $4 each day and help to preserve them from extinction. I am here both day and night near a pond. At night, we felt afraid when hearing birds crying,” he said.  

Despite this promising find, the vultures remain at serious risk of extinction, with only three officials assigned to the project covering 56km of forest, according to Sok Ko, a Kan Tuoth commune forestry administrator.

“Within two years, we could find only two nests with four babies. This is the second. We killed three cows for their food last May, and we took photos that told us the number of vultures. As a result, we saw only two red-headed vultures left in the flooded forest,” Sok Ko explained.

Some locals claim there are more birds in the forest, however, and a photographic survey is due to take place in May this year.

The red-headed vulture has been listed as “critically endangered” on the IUCN list since 2009.

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