The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has voiced concern about the decline of the lesser adjutant population which number only about 800 in Cambodia. There are about 3,000 of the large wading birds remaining in the world.
WCS said the numbers of lesser adjutants, a member of the stork family, had dropped dramatically and are listed globally as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
WCS project technical adviser Tan Setha told The Post on Thursday that lesser adjutants are found mostly in the Tonle Sap’s Prek Tal bird sanctuary. There are a small number in Preah Vihear and Mondulkiri
“Their population is suspected to be rapidly declining as a result of a variety of threats, most significantly the harvesting of eggs and chicks from colonies and a loss of nesting habitat.
“Loss of wetlands due to water poisoning by fishermen is also a factor in the loss of this kind of bird,” he said.
The bird is also threatened, Setha said, by animals that eat meat such as civet and crows, and natural disasters such as whirlwinds which cause nests to fall.
Setha said his NGO encourages citizens to protect and conserve lesser adjutants by giving them money to protect eggs until young lesser adjutants can fly.
“A programme to protect lesser adjutants was created in 1994. If they are in conservation areas, there are forest rangers to protect them.
“In locations that have no forest rangers, we hire citizens to protect their nests. People are aware of the benefits of this kind of bird, but there is still a small group who steal their eggs,” he said.
According to Article 58 of the Law on Natural Protected Areas, any individual who commits forest offences such as catching, trapping, poisoning, and collecting eggs of all types of wild animals are punished with fines ranging from 100,000 riel ($25) to one million riel ($250).
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has listed lesser adjutants as an endangered species in Cambodia.