Florican population faces extinction threat

The Bengal florican, a critically endangered species, faces the threat of extinction due to commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplains. MATTHEW KWAN/WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY

Phak Seangly and Jovina Chua
The Phnom Penh Post, Fri, 9 June 2017

The increase in commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplain is threatening the survival of the critically endangered Bengal florican, a new study suggests.

Conducted by researchers from the Imperial College of London, the University of Oxford and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the study, which was published in the international journal of conservation Oryx on May 29, surveyed 616 households in 21 villages on their livelihood activities at the Tonle Sap Floodplain Protected Landscape in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.

Results showed a sharp increase in the number of farmers who have adopted dry-season rice cultivation since 2005. Among these farmers, almost half grew more than one crop per year.

According to the study, not only does the rice cultivation encroach on breeding areas, agro-chemical use affects the species’ food source.

As opposed to cultivating just one crop per year, which “doesn’t overlap much with the florican breeding season”, the cultivation of two crops annually “means that the fields are flooded throughout the time when the floricans are trying to breed”, WCS’s Senior Technical Advisor Simon Mahood explained in an email yesterday.

He said that the increase in dry-season rice adoption could be attributed to its profitability and reliability.“Irrigation infrastructure has been improved and farming methods have been mechanised, so they are able to grow two crops instead of one,” he added.

With less than 800 of these rare birds left globally, Cambodia is the home of more than half, and is therefore “the most important country worldwide for Bengal florican conservation”, according to the WCS. (more…)

Posted on: June 8, 2017 10:03 pm

Royal turtles are taken to conservation centre

New hatchlings of Cambodia’s national reptile, the royal turtle, were taken to the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre yesterday. WCS

Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Yesenia Amaro
The Phnom Penh Post, Thu, 11 May 2017

After spending the last three months under the watchful eye of their own personal retinue of bodyguards, nine endangered royal turtles successfully broke free from their shells on Tuesday and were transferred to the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre, where they will be raised.

The nest of the critically endangered Batagur affinis turtle was discovered in February by a villager along the Kaong River in Koh Kong, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said yesterday. The Fisheries Administration and the WCS built a fence to protect the eggs and hired four villagers to guard the nest in Sre Ambel district’s Preah Ang Keo village until the eggs hatched, said Eng Mengey, WCS’s communications officer.

“There are only a few royal turtles left in the wild,” Mengey said. The royal turtle is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which tracks threatened species. Five other eggs in the nest did not hatch.

The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000, when a small population was discovered by the Fisheries Administration and WCS in the Sre Ambel River system, Mengey said.

There are now 216 royal turtles living at the Koh Kong centre, and another 27 at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, Mengey said.

Fisheries Administration official Ouk Vibol said some 20 young royal turtles will be released into the wild in June or July.

Posted on: May 10, 2017 9:01 pm

Herd of elephants rescued from muddy bomb crater

Eleven wild elephants, including a baby, were rescued from a mud-filled bomb crater in Mondulkiri province on Saturday after languishing in the swampy waters for four days. Keo Sopheak/Mondulkiri Province Environmental Office/AFP

Mech Dara, The Phnom Penh Post
Mon, 27 March 2017

Eleven wild elephants were rescued on Saturday in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima protected area after becoming trapped in a former bomb crater without food for four days, though rangers will continue to monitor the herd to ensure it reaccepts one juvenile who was handled by humans during the rescue.

Olly Griffin, a technical advisor with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said the operation was a “big team effort” between civil society groups, government authorities and local villagers.

“A large part of the credit goes to the local people from the area, who showed concern and compassion for the plight of the elephants,” Griffin said yesterday.

The 3-metre-deep bomb crater had been repurposed as a water storage pond, and Griffin said the elephants may have been seeking water when they became trapped.

People gather around a mud-filled crater in the Keo Seima protected area in which 11 wild elephants became trapped five days ago. AKP

(more…)

Posted on: March 27, 2017 6:13 am

Wild elephants rescued from muddy bomb crater in Cambodia

There are believed to only several hundred endangered Asian elephants in Cambodia, according to conservation groups AFP/John MACDOUGALL

AFP News 25 March 2017

Eleven wild elephants, including a baby, were rescued from a mud-filled bomb crater in Cambodia on Saturday after languishing in the swampy waters for four days, an environmental official said.

“They got in there to drink water and could not get out,” Keo Sopheak, the head of the environmental office in eastern Mondulkiri province, told AFP.

He said the three-meter-deep mud pit, created by a bomb during the country’s civil war, was located in a protected forest area and had been enlarged by local villagers to store water.

The elephants were discovered in the crater on Friday, said Keo Sopheak, with only their rounded backs and heads poking out of the mud pool.

“We had to dig away the edge of the crater by hand to make a path,” the official said, adding that rescuers also pumped water into the crater to thin out the sludge and help the animals climb out.

The elephants lumbered back into the jungle after their rescue.

“They could have died if they had not been spotted,” added Keo Sopheak. (more…)

Posted on: March 26, 2017 9:30 am

Elephant electrocuted, causing 12am blackout

A wild elephant lies dead after being electrocuted after running into a utility pole yesterday in Preah Sihanouk province, triggering a blackout in the area. Photo supplied

Niem Chheng, The Phnom Penh Post
Thu, 23 March 2017

A wild elephant was electrocuted when it leaned against a power pole yesterday in Preah Sihanouk, triggering a black out in the area.

The male pachyderm, one of only five believed left in an area taken over by farming, died with burns to its feet, thigh and head in the village of Stung Chral in Kampong Seila’s O’Bakrotes commune.

“It leaned its body against the electricity pole . . . causing the pole to fall,” said Kong Kimsreng, director of Natural Protected Area in the southern part of the Tonle Sap lake.

“It might have been angry because the area was a jungle in the past, but later the people transformed the area into farms.”

The carcass will be transported to and buried at Tamao Mountain. It was possible the bones be used for study or an exhibition, he said.

“We will arrange a ritual that can be a message for the people and youths to understand about the importance of wild animals to make them love wild animals,” Kimsreng said.

Commune police chief Iet Virak determined the time of death – midnight – by the blackout that occurred at that time. He said villagers had reported that five elephants were left in the region and that the one that died was the largest male.

It’s not the first time an elephant has knocked over a an electricity pole nearby. (more…)

Posted on: March 22, 2017 8:38 pm

Kampong Speu pond digging unearths 350kg bomb

CMAC officials pose with a recently discovered M117 bomb weighing over 300 kilograms in Kampong Speu yesterday. Photo supplied

Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Ananth Baliga
The Phnom Penh Post, Wed, 8 March 2017

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre yesterday retrieved and neutralised a massive M117 bomb from Kampong Speu province’s Prek Kmeng commune, and safely detonated four smaller bombs found in Preah Sihanouk province on the same day.

CMAC chief Heng Ratana said the group had been alerted about the 350-kilogram bomb by villagers late Friday evening and were only able to reach the site yesterday.

“It was reported by the villagers, who were trying to dig a hole for a pond,” he said. “Our team has cleared it now.”

He added that the M117, a US-made bomb used extensively during the Vietnam War, was rarely found in Cambodia, with the MK82 more routinely unearthed.

Ratana said there was a risk for villagers who were increasingly using excavators to dig holes, which could increase the chances of an explosion.
(more…)

Posted on: March 8, 2017 5:43 am