Cambodia records 50 percent decline in vulture population in over decade: conservationist groups

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-04 16:59:45|Editor: ying
Video PlayerClose

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's vultures are facing a high risk of extinction and have seen a 50 percent decline in number since 2003, conservationist groups said in a joint statement on Monday.

"Only 121 of the birds were recorded in this year's national census, the lowest number on record since 2003," said the joint statement released by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), BirdLife International, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity.

"Recent reviews indicate that poisoning is the major threat to the vulture population in Cambodia," the statement said.

With global populations declining at an alarming rate, Cambodia's three vulture species, namely Red-headed (Sarcogyps calvus), Slender-billed (Gyps tenuirostris), and White-rumped (Gyps bengalensis), are all listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered.

"Poisoning is probably the biggest threat to Cambodia's vultures, and it's bad for human health as well," said Simon Mahood, WCS's senior technical advisor.

"Strong efforts from government, conservation NGOs and local communities are required to save these vulture species," he said.

Other threats to Cambodia's vultures include habitat loss and food shortages caused by low numbers of wild ungulates and domestic cattle, the statement said, adding that increased levels of forest loss also negatively impact the birds through loss of nesting sites and reduction in prey availability.

"In addition, at least 30 vultures were killed over the past five years in Cambodia due to widespread indiscriminate use of deadly poisons by villagers across Cambodia, which is severely impacting the vulture population and threatening human lives too," the statement said.

Bou Vorsak, BirdLife's program manager, said 10 years of conservation action has not stopped the decline.

"This year's census result is extremely worrying, significant numbers of Cambodia's vultures now only remain in Chhep and Siem Pang Kang Lech Wildlife Sanctuaries," he said.

In an effort to save this critically endangered bird in Cambodia, the conservationist groups have periodically fed the birds with dead domestic cattle and routinely protected their nests and habitats.

Ny Naiky, coordinator of Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project, said vultures are very important birds that help clean up environment, control the spread of diseases and bacteria, and generate sustainable income to local communities through eco-tourism.

"I would encourage everyone to help conserve vultures by not purchasing or eating wild meat. Eating poisoned meat is bad for health," the coordinator added.