Environmental technical teams and bird conservationists on Sunday expressed concern for the biodiversity of birds in the wetlands due to the water shortage this year.
The concern comes as this year’s ongoing crane census has so far recorded more than 170 of them in the Boeung Prek Lapov and Anlung Pring protected areas in Takeo and Kampot provinces, respectively.
BirdLife International Cambodia Programme manager Bou Vorsak said cranes are a vulnerable and endangered species that could only be found in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Only 13,000-15,000 of them remain in the wild.
The crane census, said Vorsak, is conducted annually from December 30 to April 30 to check on their population. This year’s census found 105 cranes in Boeung Prek Lapov and 75 in Anlung Pring.
Protected areas along the Tonle Sap river and other northern provinces in Cambodia have yet to provide their preliminary reports.
“The recorded population in Boeung Prek Lapov increased by five this year compared to last year’s data.
“However, we have noted the lack of water in the area, which could further threaten their water sustenance,” he said.
The acting director of the Boeung Prek Lapov protected area, Lim Vat, told The Post that global warming and the farmers’ increased demand for water during the dry season contributed to its quick depletion in the area.
“Only a little water is left in the Boeung Prek Lapov protected area. The 16ha experimental basin has already dried up,” said Vat.
He said the Takeo provincial Department of Environment is cooperating with partner organisations, including BirdLife International Cambodia Programme, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and NatureLife Cambodia, for the restoration of the Boeung Prek Lapov Lake and the deepening of the experimental basin so it could contain more water for the area’s biodiversity.
“However, the plans have not been approved yet,” he said, adding that an assessment of the ecological impact of the plans would have to be conducted.
Chhoem Meng, the director of the Anlung Pring protected area, told The Post that as of Sunday, his working group had counted 70 cranes – a number which could increase in the following days.
“The Anlung Pring protected area is not a breeding sanctuary but a space where cranes could rest and seek food during the dry season,” said Meng.
He noted that from mid-December to mid-June, cranes migrate to the protected area to seek food. The population count reaches its peak in February, with 129 of them recorded last year and 150 in 2018.
“I believe that more cranes will gather in the Anlung Pring protected area in February because we have more food and water now than previous years’ supply,” Meng said.
According to a BirdLife International Cambodia Programme research, cranes preferred living on grasslands and wetlands. For sustenance, they feed on plants that grow in those areas.