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Globally endangered masked finfoot nest discovered in Cambodia

Conservationists from the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and local communities have discovered an Endangered masked finfoot nest for the first time in four years in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary (KPWS) in Preah Vihear Province. This site is the only confirmed breeding location in Cambodia for this very rare species.

Masked finfoot by Ashish John-WCS (002)
Masked finfoot by Ashish John-WCS

The masked finfoot (Heliopais personatus) is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered, as its global population of less than 1,000 individuals is declining at an alarming rate. This riverine species lives in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Little is known about its numbers in Cambodia.

“After educating local communities about the masked finfoot, the research team worked together with the Community Protected Area committee and other local community members to search for the species,” said Rours Vann, MoE/WCS Research Team Leader in KPWS. “We then found a masked finfoot on the nest near the Memay River in KPWS, Preah Vihear Province.

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

“Department of Environment staff in KPWS work closely with community wildlife rangers employed by WCS to protect and monitor river networks for the masked finfoot,” said Song Chansocheat, Deputy Director of Environment in Preah Vihear Province. “DoE rangers conduct law enforcement patrols in key breeding and feeding habitat.”

The Northern Plains landscape in Preah Vihear Province consists of KPWS, Prey Preah Roka Wildlife Sanctuary and Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary, and is home to many globally endangered bird species. Those include Critically Endangered giant ibis, white-shouldered ibis, three species of vulture, Endangered white-winged duck, masked finfoot and many other important species. WCS is working in collaboration with the MoE to conserve Northern Plains’ forests and wildlife through a variety of conservation interventions. The Bird Nest Protection Program is a payment scheme designed to combat the threats of hunting and egg/chick collection.

“This finding provides further evidence that the Northern Plains of Cambodia is an important biodiversity hotspot and a critical area for conserving breeding habitat for globally threatened water birds,” said Alistair Mould, WCS’s Technical Advisor to Northern Plains of Cambodia.

“Masked finfoots are globally endangered and extremely rare in Cambodia. Targeted riverine habitat protection at key breeding locations like the Mamay River is required to ensure the survival of these remaining Cambodian populations.” he added.

Nest protection in the Northern Plains of Cambodia is supported by the Sam Veasna Centre, the European Union, and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. Source: WCS

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