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PHNOM PENH – The first sarus crane’s nest discovered during the ongoing spawning season at Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, Ratanakiri province, was destroyed only three days after being spotted for the first time. It raises concerns about the safety of rare species in the area.
Bou Vorsak, Cambodia programme manager at BirdLife International, said that they discovered the destruction while coming back on site with a team dedicated to its protection.
“When we saw the nest, we had to come out of the forest to seek a guard, but things happened faster than we had thought. After three days, the nest was destroyed. We haven’t come to a conclusion yet on how it was ruined,” Vorsak said.
He went on to say that the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary might have become an unsafe place for sarus cranes and other wildlife species as the forest is being threatened by local people living around the area.
Shifting from a woodland isolated from the village, the Lumphat area is now getting bustling, Vosrak said, adding that habitat loss due to land clearing is getting greater.
“The more people coming in, the harder it is to protect the wildlife,” he regrets.
Conducting conservation activities in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary has always been challenging, but the increasing number of newcomers to the area, with a limited understanding of the protection and conservation of wildlife, is adding another layer of complexity for conservationists.
“In the Lumphat area, there are only four to five communities. The team has always promoted knowledge-sharing regarding nature conservation and wildlife protection, but there are always newcomers who are not aware of it,” he said.
“Whether they want it or not, when they lack food for meals, they go into the forest to set hunting traps and catch wild animals to meet their daily needs. This is an obstacle for the conservation work in Lumphat,” Vorsak added.
In addition, the spawning season is a highly sensitive period for cranes, as their eggs are easily collected by hunters. Paying local people to guard crane’s nests is one of the techniques used to preserve the species and allow its reproduction. Vorsak’s team can only find one or two crane nests a year in the sanctuary, while they observe between two and three pairs of cranes in the park every year.
Nevertheless, during the last census in June this year, they could observe seven cranes in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, a slight increase compared to their average observations.
“This year, the number of cranes that spawned may be higher than last year, because seven cranes had already returned to spawning by June,” Vosrak said, adding that they might be even more, as some animals can still be hiding from humans in the most densely parts of the forest.
“In such a large forest, we can only inspect and see some parts of it,” he added.
Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary is located 37km South of Banlung, covering 2,514.68 square kilometers, in the Eastern province of Ratanakiri. It borders the province of Mondulkiri. Established in 1993, this protected area is one of the biggest habitats for many rare species and wildlife animals, including tigers, elephants, red-headed vultures.
Sarus cranes had once a strong presence in Cambodia, but forest-clearing, illegal timber and poaching destroyed their habitat across the country. The species, also present in the Indian subcontinent and Australia, is classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
As the Programme Manager at BirdLife International, Vorsak also called on people and relevant authorities to take care of and participate in the protection and conservation of wildlife and rare species, so that they don’t disappear from Cambodia.
Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Meng Seavmey for Cambodianess.