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New protection for giant ibis

Cambodia’s critically endangered national bird, the giant ibis, pictured in the remote Western Siem Pang forest in Stung Treng province
Cambodia’s critically endangered national bird, the giant ibis, pictured in the remote Western Siem Pang forest in Stung Treng province. ELEANOR BRIGGS

New protection for giant ibis

A newly demarcated wildlife and forest protection zone designed to safeguard Cambodia’s national bird, the giant ibis, along with a number of other endangered species, has been approved after more than 10 years in the making.

A government sub-decree approving a protection zone spanning 66,932 hectares of the remote Western Siem Pang forest along the border with Laos, was signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday.

The purpose of creating the zone, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers, is to restore the natural habitat of “critically endangered species.”

The forest is home to five critically endangered bird species, according to a 2012 report from conservation group BirdLife International Cambodia, which documents the region’s role in providing a crucial habitat for globally threatened species.

According to the report, about 300 species of birds face extinction if economic land concessions [ELCs] and logging continue unabated.

Than Sarat, deputy director of the planning and finance department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said yesterday that plans to protect the area had been under way since 2003 in collaboration with BirdLife International.

“Since 2003 or 2004, the government cancelled parts of an ELC given to a private firm... to take back for protection,” Sarat said, adding that officials had originally signed over the land with making a proper environmental assessment.

“When the government gave the ELC, officials just decided by looking at a map and did not visit the area to see [and assess] the environmental impact.”

The approval of the sub-decree will stop the winnowing away of endangered habitat, Sarat said, offering the endangered creatures in the area a chance to make a comeback.

BirdLife representatives could not be reached yesterday.

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