Sounding the alarm bell in Asia

Ry Sochan

THE PHNOM PENH POST – The population of the masked finfoot, a water bird found in Southeast Asia and Bangladesh, is declining, raising concerns about the health of ecological systems in coastal and inland wetlands, the East Asian-Australian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) said in a press statement.

“Populations of water birds across the world are decreasing at an alarming rate, with Asia as the most affected region,” ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said in the May 9 press statement.

On May 9, ACB joined the international community in observing World Migratory Bird Day.

Mundita Lim said Birdlife International’s 2017 data showed that 61 per cent of water bird species in Asia were decreasing.

According to data, 1,469 bird species (13 per cent of the total, or one in eight) are threatened worldwide. More than 1,017 species are considered close to threatened, bringing the total to 2,486 species, or one-fifth of the world’s birds.

The masked finfoot is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and is the most endangered species in the world. PHOTO: EBIRD.ORG

“In Cambodia, initial surveys were conducted in two potential flyway sites, Ang Trepeang Thmor (Banteay Meanchey) and Boeung Prek Lapouv (Takeo). A total of 129,464 water birds from 52 different species were recorded at Ang Trapeang Thmor,” Mundita Lim said.

“Boeung Prek Lapouv recorded 4,245 water birds from 40 different species. A high number of sarus cranes were observed in both the sites, along with other vulnerable and endangered species, including the greater adjutant, lesser adjutant, and milky stork,” she said.

Cambodian Ministry of Environment Secretary of State and Spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post last Sunday that a masked finfoot breeding nest was discovered by the ministry’s conservationists, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and community members for the first time in the last four years at the Memay River in the Kulen Prumtep Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province.

It is the only known masked finfoot breeding site in Cambodia.

“The masked finfoot is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and is the most endangered species in the world, while their numbers continue to decline dramatically.

“They are only known to live in Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Their global population is less than 1,000,” Pheaktra said.

The ministry has taken action to protect them and preserve their breeding sites as well as raise awareness of them, Pheaktra said.

In Preah Vihear, WCS’ project educated people about the Giant Ibis and different methods of protecting them, he said.

There are nine bird flyways in the world, and Cambodia is located in the East Asia-Australia bird flyway.

Anlung Pring Protected Area located in Kampong Trach district, Kampot province covers a total area of 217 hectares and was recognised as a part of the East Asia – Australia bird flyway network in 2019, he said.

On April 9, three critically endangered giant ibises, Cambodia’s national bird, were killed in a protected area. Less than 300 ibises now remain in the wild. Covid-19 is giving free reign to poachers to hurt bird species and local economies, a WCS website post said on April 16.

“In a single deliberate poisoning event, three giant Ibises, equivalent to one to two per cent of the global population, have been killed.

“Part of a disturbing global trend that conservationists are noticing is an increase in the hunting of protected species since the spread of coronavirus began,” WCS said.