The undated picture released by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on Jan. 29, 2018 shows a red-headed vulture sitting on its nest in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. Three nests of the critically endangered red-headed vulture were found in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary in northwest Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, giving hope that conservation efforts may save this species from extinction, a WCS statement said on Monday. (Xinhua/WCS)
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Three nests of the critically endangered red-headed vulture were found in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary in northwest Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, giving hope that conservation efforts may save this species from extinction, a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) statement said on Monday.
The population of this species in Cambodia is possibly less than 50 individuals, the statement said.
Cambodia's three vulture species -- 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, the statement said.
It said Cambodia supports the largest population of vultures in Southeast Asia, but there only a few hundred individuals left in the country.
As part of the Bird's Nest Protection Program, WCS has employed six community members to protect the nests of these vultures, and local people are now incentivized to protect the rare species until their eggs hatch and the chicks are able to leave the nest, the statement said.
"I am eager to protect vulture nests because I can generate income to support my family and I'm able to join in conserving this species that is now very rare," said Soeng Sang, a red-headed vulture nest protector. "I have spent much of my time staying near the nest site to prevent any disturbances or harm."
Increased levels of hunting, forest loss and land conversion, land encroachment and selective logging negatively affect the birds through loss of nesting sites and reduction in prey availability, the statement said.
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 in and around water sources to catch birds and other small mammals, which are severely affecting the vulture population, it added.
"The red-headed vulture is a very rare species; they are facing a high risk of extinction," said Tan Sophan, WCS's vulture project coordinator in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary. "Besides nest protection, we also organize 'vulture restaurants' to feed vultures every month."
Vulture restaurants are sites where the birds are periodically provided supplementary feedings, the statement said.