Six nests of rare white-shouldered ibis have been discovered in north Cambodia’s Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). In a press release, the WCS revealed that the nests were spotted in forests near Tmatbouy village in Preah Vihear province, and the Society’s staff is now working to protect these nests under a safeguarding program.
White-shouldered ibis, also known as the black ibis or Pseudibis davisoni, prefer to live near grasslands and wetlands, such as marshes, pools, wide rivers, etc. A fully-grown member of the species measures about 75-85 cm in length and is characterized by a distinctive pale collar and naked head. A white-shouldered ibis also features a whitish patch on its inner forewing.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists white-shouldered ibis as a critically endangered species. Earlier, these birds were widely found across much of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Malaysia, but their population has dwindled drastically over the past 100 years due to hunting, logging, hydrological changes, and a variety of other reasons. Today, this bird is found only in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Laos. According to WCS, less than 1,000 members of the species now live globally. Its Indonesian population, which was earlier estimated at 30-100 individuals, has also declined in recent years.
In Cambodia, the breeding populations of white-shouldered ibis are found mostly in the eastern and northern regions. The Tmatbouy forests, where six new nests have been found, are home to about 50 white-shouldered ibises. Wildlife conservationists are now trying to protect the habitats of these birds in northeastern Cambodia and along the Mekong channel.
“We are very excited to find the white-shouldered ibis nests because they are target species for birding tourists who visit Tmatbouy,” said Dep Kimon, Head of Tmatbouy Community Protected Area ecotourism sub-committee.
According to Kimon, Tmatbouy is slowly gaining popularity as a perfect destination to watch ibises and many other species of birds. The extra income generated through tourism activities also helps in supporting the livelihood of the local people and in building the Village Development Fund.
The WCS has partnered with Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment to protect the natural habitats of ibis in Cambodia’s northern plains. The Society is currently running a Bird Nest Protection Program that offers direct payments to the local people and community wildlife rangers for their efforts in spotting and protecting ibis nests within the forests. The WCS is also trying to raise awareness among locals about the significance of these birds for the entire region.
Last year in August, 19 nests of giant ibis were found in the Preah Vihear province, according to The Hindu. Of these nests, 14 were spotted in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary, and five were found in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary.