Brown and white-rumped vultures have returned to nests in Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province after an absence of more than five years due to poisoning from human activity, a joint statement from the Ministry of Environment and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said.

The environment ministry and WWF said in the press statement on July 24 that two brown vultures and one white-rumped vulture were recently discovered nesting in the sanctuary.

WWF-Cambodia’s biodiversity research and monitoring manager Milou Groenenberg said the birds had disappeared from the area due to poisoning.

“The latest count of the three types of vultures by wildlife researchers of the environment ministry and WWF revealed that four brown, 11 white-rumped, and five red-headed vultures were living close to the Prey Sambo Wildlife Sanctuary along the Mekong River of Kratie province,” she said.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra lauded researchers and rangers of the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, saying their efforts to protect and conserve one of the largest forest glade areas in Southeast Asia had made the area safer for wildlife and sustained the forest and water sources to maintain biodiversity.

“This is good news for conservationists and biodiversity. [I] would like to ask all relevant sides to cooperate to protect and conserve vultures, which is a rare type [of bird] for the sake of biodiversity and preserve the natural heritage for young generations,” he said.

WWF-Cambodia country director Seng Teak said that in Cambodia, researchers have recorded a worrying decline of the three types of vultures over the last 15 years. The main threats to the birds are poisoning, food shortages, loss of habitat and human activity.

“This good news encouraged all relevant sides, especially the working groups of the eastern Cambodia landscape conservation programme. They regularly increase their efforts to increase the numbers of these animals,” he said.

The vulture count by conservationists as of March showed a total of 121 birds. Of the number, there are 20 red-headed, 66 white-rumped and 35 brown vultures.