The US Agency for International Development's “Greening Prey Lang Project” (USAID-GPLP) is working with local communities and other partners to conserve the oriental darter and other endangered species found in the Prey Lang extended landscape.
According to USAID-GPLP, the oriental darter is a cormorant-like bird that is most at home in and around wetlands because its feathers are semi-permeable to water and this helps the bird when it is swimming and hunting fish.
It is sometimes called the snakebird because of its long thin neck and head that stay visible above the water while the rest of the bird is submerged below.
It lives in lakes, swamps and river habitats. This bird is found throughout the year in Cambodia and has large breeding grounds in the Prek Toal area of Tonle Sap Lake and some smaller areas in the north of Cambodia.
“This bird has a long neck like a snake, long beak that is sharp as a sword, black colour, long tail and long white stripes on the back,” it said.
It also noted that key bird species in the Prey Lang extended landscape are threatened by poaching, habitat destruction, and land encroachment.
Birds that lay their eggs on the ground are vulnerable to predators such as dogs, humans and other wildlife, while those that build their nests in trees are vulnerable to logging, poaching and land clearance for agriculture or settlement, it said.
Bird nest guardians protect against some of these threats and during the last breeding season between June 2020 and May 2021, a total of 127 nests and 232 chicks of endangered bird species were monitored and protected under the bird nest protection programme in Preah Vihear province supported by USAID-GPLP.
“During the year, the programme recruited 54 bird nest protectors from local villages to act as bird nest protectors during the breeding season, safeguarding the nesting birds and their chicks from threats. Species monitored this year included Giant Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis, Sarus Crane, Lesser Adjutant, Woolly-necked Stork, Black-necked Stork, Masked Finfoot, White-winged Duck, and Red-headed Vulture,” it said.
USAID-GPLP pays community members a daily rate for each nest they watch over. Depending on the bird species, the monitoring period takes up to three months, beginning with finding active nests with eggs and ending when the chicks having successfully fledged.
Numerous studies have shown the bird nest programme to be very effective. By engaging local communities in conservation, the programme not only improves biodiversity conservation and ecosystem health, but it also improves community livelihoods and strengthens inclusive and effective landscape governance.