Access to the grasslands of protected areas in the Tonle Sap Lake lowlands has been temporarily restricted, as the breeding season of one of the world’s rarest birds is underway.
Bengal floricans (Houbaropsis bengalensis) are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, and breed from April to September.
Environmental organisation Our Tonle Sap, which is funded by the EU and led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia, issued a May 12 press release detailing the travel restrictions.
“Access to the grassland areas [excluding existing roads and trails] in protected areas is prohibited to avoid disturbing or destroying nests and eggs during the breeding season. The off-road or trail use of cars, motorbikes or any other vehicles is strictly forbidden,” it said.
“We ask for the cooperation and understanding of all members of the public, whether bird watchers, photographers or anyone else. Please play your part in the conservation of the critically endangered bird species that are present in our country,” it added.
The Ministry of Environment described Bengal floricans as one of the most endangered species in the world.
The global population is estimated at fewer than 800. Cambodia is one of the most important countries in the world to the conservation of the species, with 432 individual birds recorded in a 2012 census.
The grasslands of the Tonle Sap Lake lowlands in Kampong Thom province support the largest population of Bengal floricans in the world, and are critical to their survival.
WCS Cambodia noted that in a bid to protect and conserve the species, the government established Bengal Florican Conservation Areas around the lake – now named the Northern Tonle Sap Lowland Protected Landscape – safeguarding 31,159ha under sub-decree across Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces in the Kingdom's north.