Experts from the Prey Veng provincial Department of Environment are searching for and collecting dead wild birds in the Tuol Porn Taley Boeung Sne conservation area to determine the cause of death after villagers and local authorities reported that hundreds of birds had died for no apparent reason.
Touch Var Ratha, director of the environment department, told The Post on Monday that according to reports from residents and local authorities, the case of dead birds in the conservation area has been ongoing for nearly a week. Some were found dead in the forest near the waterfront while others in fields adjacent to the protected area.
“Based on a fact-finding visit to the area on Monday morning, our team initially concluded that the deaths could have been caused by the weather being too hot, old age or maybe by pollution,” Touch said.
“We have now collected dead birds and water samples from rice paddies where the villagers claim the birds drank to test and find out more facts,” he added.
He also called on people living near the area not to touch the dead birds, which could be dangerous if they have died from disease or poisoning.
He said that while collecting dead birds in the area on Monday morning, his team, with participation from communities and local authorities, found 85 carcasses, most of them were Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans).
Chief of the area’s conservation community Puth Bo told The Post on Monday that since March 17, farmers in his community have collected more than 200 dead animals to be destroyed.
“On the first day, our community found them dead in streams, rice paddies, lakes and forests, but not in large numbers. But in the last two days, we have found them increasing numbers which is a concern,” he said.
According to Puth, farmers in his community do not use pesticides on their fields or plantations, although the fields are rich in Siem snails that could destroy our rice crops. They believe that the birds protect their rice crops. But the farmers in other villages use pesticides to destroy the snails.
Meanwhile, Kang Thoeun, 52, a farmer in Tuol Taley village, Ba Phnom district’s Theay commune, expressed concern about animal-to-human transmission.
“If the birds died from pesticides, chemicals or the weather, it will not cause harm to humans, but if they have contracted a new strain of bird flu from one area and flown to die in this area, they will transmit the virus to humans,” he said.
According to Thoeun, the wild birds in the area have become accustomed to people. It is not surprising because the villagers in the area did not harm them and the birds did not destroy crops. In addition to cultivating rice and cash crops, farmers in the area earn extra income by taking visitors to see wild birds in the conservation area, especially during the rainy season.