The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has expressed concern for the impact on birds, domestic animals and even humans after three giant ibises died of poisoning in Chhaeb district in Preah Vihear province.
WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha told The Post on Tuesday that wild animal hunters had used carbofuran – a poison used to kill mice – to kill the birds.
He expressed concern that the poisoned animals could poison people or other animals if they are eaten.
“Vultures, as we know, eat dead animals. If a vulture eats the poisoned animals it will be poisoned too. The vulture is important as pollution cleaning agents in our ecosystem and it is the species that attract tourists,” he said.
Serey Rotha said it is also a risk to domestic animals when owners release them and they drink water at puddles and ponds that contain poisonous substances from the wild animal carcasses.
The endangered giant ibises were found dead on April 9. The birds were killed illegally for their meat, which would have been consumed locally or sold on the market, the WCS said on Sunday.
“In the last two weeks, as economies closed down and incomes have dried up, conservationists have seen an increase in natural resource exploitation, including poaching of protected wildlife,” it said.
Serey Rotha said his organisation was saddened by the loss of animals that symbolised the Kingdom and are meant to be protected. In Southeast Asia, only Cambodia remains home to the giant ibis, perhaps as many as 300 in the brushwood in low-lying areas of the north and east.
Cambodia has one-third of the global population of the species, which is still a small number.
“It serves the tourist sector and is important for attracting them to Cambodia. Those who like animals attempt to catch a glimpse of this species. So, it generates income for the community and it is the image of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Besides, the temples, we have animals for tourists,” he said.
Serey Rotha said if there are no giant ibises in Cambodia, tourists will not visit the northern plains. Thousands of international tourists have visited the area to see the giant ibis in the past decade, and they have paid more than $100,000 into a community fund linked to sightings of the species.
Preah Vihear provincial Department of Environment director Song Chansocheat told The Post on Tuesday that a task force from his department had issued a ban on people using poisons.
Officials were put on standby along with community members to watch over main ponds.
“The provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will tighten the sale of these kinds of poisons for the sake of the animals. People buy them to poison animals and fish in the ponds,” he said.