The Ministry of Environment joined the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on Wednesday to conduct an annual census of vultures in five areas in Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear provinces.
Ministry secretary of state and spokesperson Neth Pheaktra told The Post on Thursday that the team mostly visited wildlife sanctuaries in the provinces, as well as feeding grounds where staffers attract vultures with a meal to be able to count them.
The team noticed a considerable decrease in its population compared to last year.
Pheaktra said last year’s census showed that Cambodia is home to three species of vultures with a total population of 137. The number has decreased to 119 this year.
He said the Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng province and the Chheb Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear had the most vultures.
Pheaktra on Wednesday also attended the annual opening ceremony of the census at the Dong Phlet forest community in the Chheb Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province. Provincial authorities, officials from the USAID Greening Prey Lang Project and ministry experts also attended the ceremony.
WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha said that in the province, his team noticed a considerable rise in the vulture population.
At a feeding ground in the Chheb sanctuary, he said 34 vultures descended to feed on a dead cow that had been offered by WCS and Greening Prey Lang Project staffers. In December last year, 44 vultures had feasted on a similar meal at the same location.
“It was good news that morning when we observed them,” he said.
He said the growth was a result of joint patrols between communities and environmental rangers tasked with protecting the vultures.
“We were lucky to find some vulture nests, which we can now protect. In the past, sometimes we weren’t able to find any nests.
“Community members looking for Orchid flowers or mushrooms would sometimes come across them and disturb them, causing the potential loss of eggs. This year, we feel lucky to be able to protect them,” he said.
Pheaktra said the ministry and the WCS actively protect the vultures’ nests and provide them with food as part of their conservation efforts.
“Vultures are a rare species and at great risk of extinction throughout the world. The number of vultures declines every year at an alarming level, even though the Ministry of Environment has collaborated with various partner organizations to try to protect and conserve them,” he said.
He called on all citizens to assist in the efforts by stopping poaching or trading wild animals.
He said vultures are docile and help clean the environment by eating other animals’ carcasses.
“[The conservation of vultures] is valuable for biodiversity, attracting tourists for natural tourism, creating jobs and generating income for citizens,” he said.