Protected birds come under threat

Source: Khmer Times

Ranger Rours Vann has seen a sharp decline in lesser adjutant numbers. KT/Mai Vireak

A protected bird species has come under renewed threat after land-grabbers invaded Preah Vihear province’s Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary and destroyed their habitat.
The lesser adjutant is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Protection of its nests started in 2002.
Nest numbers have fallen since newcomers grabbed land to claim ownership.
Rours Vann, an Environment Ministry ranger and sanctuary researcher, said that before 2015 a working group found about 140 nests. This was now down to about 40.
Last year there were only 20 nests, but this had increased this year.
“This number decreased because of economic land concessions, logging, land grabbing and creating new villages,” Mr. Vann said.
“The main problem is the increase in newcomers,” he said.
Many people came to occupy and grab land to build housing or cultivate, threatening and destroying nests for breeding. Mr. Vann said had asked the local authority to allow only two or three families per year to move in.
“I am also concerned that in the future, this species will be lost if these problems continue,” he said.
Mr. Vann called for support from authorities and government to curb the problems which affect the species’ nests and shelters.
He said there are more than 100 nests of the species in the Chhep wildlife sanctuary.
This number has also decreased, but the decline was low because there were few villagers around that area, while the Kulen Promtep sanctuary has many villagers nearby.
Each nest could be home to two to four lesser adjutants including chicks. The nests are on tree branches more than five meters above the ground.
Khmer Times spent about two hours traveling from Preah Vihear town to reach the nesting spot along a difficult road at Srayang commune.
It took about 20 minute by foot to visit the nests and birds. Many birds appeared and flew over their nests to protect their chicks.
Som Khoeun, 56, and his son are among a number of nest protectors. The pair have worked together for two years.
Mr. Khoeun found three nests in the sanctuary in 2015. Now the number has risen to 30. Each worker gets $3.50 per day to protect the nests.
“Because we can preserve the forest and timber, this species started to increase at this spot this year,” he said.
When he was not around, villagers from outside his own village came to cut timber.
However, when he was at home, he always stopped and explained to loggers to go back because they were harming vulnerable birds.
If these people did not follow his instructions, he would report them to the ranger to take legal action.
Mr. Khoeun, whose home is in the village, has built a small house near the nests in which to sleep while he protects the species.
“I am so happy to protect these birds and their nests,” he said.
“I want to conserve this species for our next generation.
“We do not want anyone to log timber and destroy them.”

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