A TOTAL of 429 white-shouldered ibis have been counted in Cambodia, the largest number of the critically endangered birds ever to have been recorded, according to a report released yesterday.
A survey headed by the University of East Anglia with assistance from six conservation groups tallied the birds in 37 roost sites across the Kingdom in August, according to the report, which was released by the UEA and the conservation NGO Birdlife International in Indochina.
“The new findings indicate that Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, Ratanakkiri province, is particularly valuable as over 170 birds were counted here,” the report states. “With up to 40 percent of the known population, this site is now the second most important in the world, not far behind Western Siem Pang [Important Birds Area], Stung Treng province, which has the largest known population.”
Hugh Wright, a doctoral student at UEA and an expert on the species, said via email yesterday that Cambodia was home to the largest known population of white-shouldered ibis in the world.
“I would estimate that Cambodia has at least 90 percent of the global population, probably even 95 percent,” he said.
This year’s count exceeds the number of the species previously thought to exist globally.
The 2010 Red List of Threatened Species, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature earlier this year, estimated that there were 330 white-shouldered ibis worldwide.
The IUCN lists it as “critically endangered”.
Hugh Wright said that, despite the positive findings of the latest survey, extinction remained a serious threat for the species.
“By far the biggest threat to the ibis population is habitat loss through inappropriate large-scale developments such as agriculture, land concessions for logging and plantation, and major infrastructural projects such as dams,” he said.
“These threats are very real: the two sites with the largest numbers of white-shouldered ibis both have such developments planned or proposed.”