The Ministry of Tourism last month recognised the Tmat Boey Thoeun Krasang community forest in Choam Ksan district’s Pring Thom commune, in Preah Vihear province, as a “Model Tourism Community” for its management’s efforts to conserve the rare white-shouldered ibis.
Dim Kim Orn, the Tmat Boey Thoeun Krasang community forest president, said they competed with other tourism communities and establishments, and that the forest has been nominated twice prior to the victory.
“I believe we were given this award due to our contribution to wildlife preservation and community development,” he said.
Kim Orn said his community works alongside the Cambodia Bird Guide Association (CBGA) and Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation to bring tourists to the region.
“We offer food and lodging with hand-woven mats for visitors to experience the traditional lifestyle of this community,” he said.
The forest, he added, employs about 40 staff, most of whom came from underprivileged families.
“Most of our employees working in the community are poor. They work as tour guides and cleaners. We educated them about ibis protection, to prevent other people from stealing and destroying the birds’ nests,” he said.
Kim Orn claimed that the number of white-shouldered ibises inhabiting the forest had increased to 40 today, compared to only four when their project began.
White-shouldered ibis, also known as the black ibis or Pseudibis davisoni, prefer to live near grasslands and wetlands. A fully-grown member of the species measures about 75-85 cm in length.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the white-shouldered ibis as a critically endangered species.
Earlier, these birds were widely found across much of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia.
But their population has dwindled drastically over the past 100 years due to hunting, logging, hydrological changes, and a variety of other reasons.
Today, the bird is found only in Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos.