4 Nov 2013

Record numbers of White-shouldered Ibis in Cambodia

White-shouldered Ibis. Photo: Jonathan C. Eames/BirdLife
White-shouldered Ibis. Photo: Jonathan C. Eames/BirdLife
By Martin Fowlie

A record number of White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni have been recorded in the wild in Cambodia, making the known global population larger than previous studies suggested. These results once again confirm that Cambodia is the stronghold for this Critically Endangered species.

The count of 973 follows nearly a decade’s conservation work by international and local NGOs and government agencies. Since coordinated counts began in 2009, the known population for this species has been increasing every year, partly as a result of conservation actions, such as nest protection to improve chick survival, and partly due to increased survey effort and better knowledge of roost locations.

The future of this species is far from certain. Many of these birds are at risk of losing their habitat from imminent changes in land use and currently over three-quarters of the birds were censused on roosts outside the boundaries of legally protected areas. The counts have identified Western Siem Pang Proposed Protected Forest as the most important site.

With a global population of around 1200 birds, Cambodia could hold as much as 97% of the world’s White-shouldered Ibises and the country is of vital importance for the species’ conservation.

Though the recent counts are positive news there is still significant work to be done if this species is to be safeguarded. 

The coordinated survey was carried out by BirdLife International and its partners including Cambodian Forestry Administration, General Department for Administration of Nature Conservation and Protection, People Resources and Conservation Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Sam Veasna Center and Worldwide Fund for Nature.

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Several donors have supported this work, particularly the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Steven Martin (BirdLife Species Champion), The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.