PHNOM PENH, July 20 (Xinhua) -- A conservationist group said Thursday that it has found a globally endangered Masked Finfoot, an aquatic bird, on its nest for the first time in four years in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary (KPWS) in northwest Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.
This site near the Memay river is the only confirmed breeding location in Cambodia for this very rare species, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said in a statement.
Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personatus) is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Globally Endangered because its global population is declining at an alarming rate, the statement said.
This riverine species lives only in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, it said, adding that its global population is less than 1,000 individuals, while little is known about the numbers in Cambodia.
"After educating local communities about the Masked Finfoot, the research team worked together with Community Protected Area committee and other local community members to search for the species, and we then found a Masked Finfoot on the nest near the Memay River," said Rours Vann, head of the Environment Ministry and WCS research team in KPWS.
"I am proud of this finding because it is very rare species. We have not recorded any nests since 2013," he said. "Through nest protection program, we have hired two local villagers to protect the nest to prevent any harm and disturbance."
Song Chansocheat, deputy chief of Environment Department in Preah Vihear province, said his staff would work closely with community wildlife rangers to protect this rare species.
The Northern Plains landscape in Preah Vihear province consists of KPWS, Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary and Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary, and is home to many globally endangered birds.
Those include critically endangered Giant Ibis, white-shouldered Ibis, and three species of vulture, globally endangered white-winged Duck, Masked Finfoot and many other important wildlife, the WCS said.
"This finding provides further evidence that Northern Plains of Cambodia is an important biodiversity hotspot and critical area for conserving breeding habitat for globally threatened water birds," said Alistair Mould, WCS's technical advisor to Northern Plains of Cambodia.
"Masked Finfoots are globally endangered and extremely rare in Cambodia. Targeted riverine habitat protection at key breeding locations like the Mamay river is required to ensure the survival of these remaining Cambodian populations," he said.