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Experts say let bird fly

A Himalayan griffon
A Himalayan griffon vulture photographed in mid-flight in 2009. A Himalayan vulture was found in Kampot province yesterday. JAN REURINK

Experts say let bird fly

Wildlife experts fear for the health of a migratory vulture from Central Asia after it was captured by villagers in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district and taken to a notorious private zoo.

The Himalayan vulture, also known as the Himalayan griffon, which rarely visits Cambodia, was caught last week by a young villager in Koh Touch commune.

Initially destined for the cooking pot, the vulture has since been sent to the province’s Teuk Chhou zoo, owned by Cambodia’s National Committee for Disaster Management Vice President Nhim Vanda.

Commune police chief Kouch Chan Suy said he ordered the 12-kilogram bird be put in captivity so “other people and the next generations” could see it.

“The villagers wanted to sell it for cooking, but I said no and told them they would face punishment,” he said.

However, wildlife experts have strongly criticised the decision to give the bird to the zoo, which was described as “horrific” in a 2011 Post article.

“If the bird can be released, it should be released,” Birdlife International’s Sum Phearun said, adding he feared the vulture would be kept indefinitely against its best interests.

“It is stressed; it’s away from its nesting grounds and its own kind.”

Jonathan Eames, also of Birdlife International, said the vulture was likely suffering from fatigue and lack of food, given it had flown several thousand kilometres.

He said it was imperative the bird be given to experts quickly.

“Vultures that undergo rehabilitation and are introduced into a suitable environment can make a full recovery,” he said.

However, Wildlife Alliance’s Nick Marx said he doubted the vulture would be released.

Nhim Vanda was unreachable for comment.