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Endangered duck offers rare sighting

MOM KUNTHEAR / Khmer Times Share:
White-winged ducks are at risk of extinction. Supplied

Seven eggs belonging to the globally endangered white-winged duck have been found inside a Koki tree hollow in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, Preah Vihear province.

Three local men made the discovery on Sunday near Sambo village, in Kunlen district’s Sr-yorng commune and immediately reported it to the Environment Ministry and Wildlife Conservation Society.

The nest was hidden inside the tree hollow, about 12 metres above the ground.

The society said the find is the first sign of the endangered species in the Northern Plains of Cambodia for five years.

In Long, 36, one of the men who found the nest, said he and his two friends spotted a white-winged duck in the tree as they were walking to a rice field. They recognised it as endangered and reported it.

He said the society team came to check the nest and hired him and his two friends to guard it.

“We are so happy to be nest protectors and will work hard to protect it from any human disturbances, egg collection or other small carnivores. We are pleased to fulfil this role and trying our best to achieve the goal,” said Mr Long.

The white-winged duck is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List as Globally Endangered. It is in decline due to disturbance along key stretches of riverine habitats and illegal poaching.

The global population of the duck is estimated to be between 250 and 1,000, while little is known about the numbers in Cambodia.

Rours Vann, research team leader for the Environment Ministry and the conservation society at Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, said he and his staff were very excited to see the white-winged duck mother had laid seven eggs.

“The white-winged duck is endangered, so more protection is needed to conserve the species from extinction,” he said, adding that nest and habitat protection are important to safeguard their lives and breeding.

“To avoid any disturbances or harm, we hired the villagers to guard the nest. Our team will monitor it regularly as well,” Mr Vann said.

The Northern Plains landscape in Preah Vihear province consists of Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary and Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary, all of which are home to many endangered bird species.

Those include the giant ibis, white-shouldered ibis, three species of vulture, the white-winged duck, and much other important wildlife.

The Bird Nest Protection Programme is a payment scheme designed to combat the threat of egg and chick collection.

Under the scheme, local people living in two protected areas in the Northern Plains are offered conditional payments if they successfully locate, monitor and protect nests.

From 2002 until 2016, 3,813 nests and 6,806 fledglings were safeguarded over an area greater than 4,000 square kilometres.

It is estimated that approximately 3,700 additional globally threatened birds have fledged as a direct result of the programme, at an approximate cost of $134 each.

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