Masked finfoot makes a rare appearance

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
There are fewer than 1,000 masked finfoots left in the world. Supplied

Environmentalists have discovered a rare masked finfoot nest in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, the first of its kind in four years.

The sanctuary, in Preah Vihear province, is home to many threatened species of bird, including the globally endangered masked finfoot.

According to a Wildlife Conservation Society statement published yesterday, this is the first nest to be found in four years of research on the Memay River.

The species is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List because global populations have been rapidly declining and now stand at less than 1,000, with very few living in Cambodia.

It is an aquatic bird, also known as the Asian finfoot, notorious for being very shy and having a long neck.

The species is native to Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Rours Vann, an Environment Ministry ranger and researcher at Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, said his team had educated the local community about the rare masked finfoot.

He added that locals worked together with researchers to look for the species.

“I am proud of this finding because it is a very rare species,” he said. “We have not recorded any nests since 2013. Through our nest protection programme, we have hired two local villagers to protect the nest to prevent any harm and disturbance.”

Eng Mengey, WCS’s communications officer, said the masked finfoot nest was found on Tuesday afternoon. Nobody knows how many eggs it contains because the species is afraid of humans, so the research team are keeping their distance from the nest.

“We cannot move near to the nest. If the adult masked finfoot flew away or abandoned the nest, the eggs would die,” he said, adding that the working group and guards were keeping track of it using a telescope.

“We hope to know the number after they hatch,” he said, adding that masked finfoots are not usually seen in groups, but in pairs or alone.

Kulen Promtep, Prey Preah Roka and Chhep wildlife sanctuaries make up the northern plains landscape, which is a critical area for feeding and breeding endangered birds such as the giant ibis, white-shoulder ibis, three species of vulture, the white-winged duck and the lesser adjutant.

Earlier this month, seven eggs belonging to the globally endangered white-winged duck were found inside a Koki tree in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary.

It was the first such nest to be discovered in five years of research there.

Last month, WCS discovered a critically endangered Siamese crocodile nest of 19 eggs near Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel river for the first time in six years of research.

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