Economic land concessions strewn over the remote Western Siem Pang forest, in Stung Treng province, are threatening the survival of Cambodia’s national bird, the giant ibis, a report reveals.
The forest, flanking the Kingdom’s border with Laos, is home to five critically endangered bird species, yet its ecosystem is in danger of devastation, according to a 10-year report from conservation group BirdLife International Cambodia, which documents the extent of the region’s biodiversity and its role in providing a crucial habitat for globally threatened species.
“You can see in my report all the species of birds that face extinction,” Bou Vorsak, program manager at the BirdLife International Cambodia Program, said.
“There are 300 species, but they’ll face extinction if we don’t take care of them – such as the giant Ibis, of which there are only 346 left. We’re worried it could become extinct through land concessions and logging, and that’s why we made the effort to release this report, so we can start doing something to prevent it.”
Since 2009, almost 150,000 hectares of the isolated area have been earmarked as Protected Forest by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but BirdLife International says another large slice of the forest is leased to the Green Sea Agriculture Company Limited under a 70-year agricultural concession.
The report says the area’s diverse landscape includes swathes of the non-threatened Deciduous Dipterocarp Forest, but that the large- scale destruction of the same forest in Thailand and Laos from development means Cambodia’s should not be taken for granted.
“It’s a wonderful forest, not just for Cambodia but also the world. Now our organisation has found just how many kinds of birds and animals live here,” Bou Vorsak said.
Sarah Brook, flagship species officer for Flora and Fauna International (FFI) Cambodia, said the site was “very significant” for the conservation of biodiversity in Cambodia.
“Protection of this area is very important . . . in particular for several globally threatened bird species, including the two ibis species, and large mammals such as Eld’s deer,” she said.
Cambodia’s World Wildlife Fund (WWF) supported the release of the report and the protection of the giant ibis, according to bird nest project officer Sok Ko, but the forest also nurtured the reproduct-ion of threatened birds such as vultures and river terns.
“WWF, in collaboration with the Cambodian government and local communities, works to protect nests of white-shouldered ibis in the Mekong Flooded Forest, a 56-kilometre section of the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng,” Sok Ko said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Rosa Ellen and Claire Knox at [email protected]