Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Florican population faces extinction threat

Florican population faces extinction threat

The Bengal florican, a critically endangered species, faces the threat of extinction due to commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplains. Matthew Kwan/Wildlife Conservation Society
The Bengal florican, a critically endangered species, faces the threat of extinction due to commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplains. Matthew Kwan/Wildlife Conservation Society

Florican population faces extinction threat

The increase in commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplain is threatening the survival of the critically endangered Bengal florican, a new study suggests.

Conducted by researchers from the Imperial College of London, the University of Oxford and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the study, which was published in the international journal of conservation Oryx on May 29, surveyed 616 households in 21 villages on their livelihood activities at the Tonle Sap Floodplain Protected Landscape in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.

Results showed a sharp increase in the number of farmers who have adopted dry-season rice cultivation since 2005. Among these farmers, almost half grew more than one crop per year.

According to the study, not only does the rice cultivation encroach on breeding areas, agro-chemical use affects the species’ food source.

As opposed to cultivating just one crop per year, which “doesn’t overlap much with the florican breeding season”, the cultivation of two crops annually “means that the fields are flooded throughout the time when the floricans are trying to breed”, WCS’s Senior Technical Advisor Simon Mahood explained in an email yesterday.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Bengal Florican, a critically endangered species, faces the threat of extinction due to commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplains. Matthew Kwan/Wildlife Conservation Society

He said that the increase in dry-season rice adoption could be attributed to its profitability and reliability.“Irrigation infrastructure has been improved and farming methods have been mechanised, so they are able to grow two crops instead of one,” he added.

With less than 800 of these rare birds left globally, Cambodia is the home of more than half, and is therefore “the most important country worldwide for Bengal florican conservation”, according to the WCS.

To protect the Bengal florican population, farmers might have to give up doubling their annual crop cultivation.

“Bengal floricans can breed in dry-season rice fields as long as only one crop of rice is cultivated each year and areas of long grass are retained in head-ponds or along broad embankments,” the press release reads.

To convince farmers to stick to just one crop per year, Mahood suggested educating them on its benefits.

“Growing two crops of rice requires a lot of chemical use, which reduces soil fertility over time and therefore reduces yields whilst increasing the costs of inputs,” he said. “Growing one crop of rice each year and then leaving it fallow or planting a legume maintains the soil fertility and means that fields don’t need to be abandoned due to the soil being exhausted.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • MEPs' call for Rainsy's safety not European Parliament position

    The European Parliament said on Friday that a statement by 56 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for guarantees of Sam Rainsy’s freedom and safety should he return to Cambodia did not represent its position. Delphine Colard, the European Parliament’s press officer told

  • Sar Kheng: Rainsy return not blocked

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng clarified that Cambodia had never blocked Sam Rainsy from returning to the Kingdom. However, he said Cambodia reserved the right to take legal action as allowed by law against activities aimed at destroying the Kingdom. “No one blocked the return