March 4, 2024


“What’s occurring to my house?” If birds suppose rationally (and there’s proof to counsel they’ll) then this thought might have been within the heads of a household of Sarus Cranes as they stood, powerless, watching monster equipment tear up their habitat. Sovannarith Thol was on the scene a couple of years in the past: “Many folks know that habitat loss is the most important reason for extinction, however they’re distanced from the truth,” says the Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary Project Manager from the BirdLife Cambodia Programme. “Seeing birds witness this destruction in entrance of their eyes made it painfully actual.”

Sarus Cranes Antigone antigone (Vulnerable) are spectacularly spectacular; reaching as much as six toes tall with a wingspan of about eight toes, they’re the world’s tallest flying birds. And at Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, they’re in good firm: birds listed here are massive. Also stalking by means of the marshes are Greater and Lesser Adjutants Leptoptilos dubius and Leptoptilos javanicus, (Endangered and Vulnerable) and Green Peafowl Pavo muticus (Endangered), imposing in their very own foreboding and delightful methods and all standing at over a metre tall.

Other hefty birds such because the White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni (Critically Endangered) and the Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea (Critically Endangered) – Cambodia’s nationwide chook – perch implausibly within the surrounding timber. At such gargantuan sizes you’d suppose they’d be simple to identify however, as you’ve doubtless observed, all of those species are threatened and their numbers low.

At 250,000 ha, Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary is considered one of Cambodia’s largest protected areas, thus in a position to cater for these bumper-size birds, and consists of largely intact forest dotted with trapaengs (seasonal water holes), a favorite spot for species such because the Giant Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis and Sarus Crane to seek out meals. The native folks too, depend on the forests for all that they want. There are 26 villages in and across the panorama, reliant on rain-fed rice, water from the forest’s rivers and its fish for his or her protein. So lengthy because the human inhabitants right here is steady, folks and nature reside in concord. But latest modifications have disturbed the equilibrium.

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The White-shouldered Ibis enjoys feeding around Lomphat's watering holes © Jonathan Eames

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In 2010, the federal government of Cambodia launched a brand new land-use coverage generally known as an Economic Land Concession (ELC), a recurring risk throughout the nation that permits personal sector corporations to transform native forests into industrial plantations of banana, rubber and different money crops. Soon, the tranquil rustling of rice paddies within the wind and gurgle of Lomphat’s life-sustaining rivers was torn by means of by the rip of chainsaws, screech of diggers, and increase of trunks surrendering to the forest ground. And as massive chunks of forest fell, so did Lomphat’s chook populations. Thankfully, that’s not the place the story ends. A turning level got here in 2013 when the Cambodian authorities agreed to throw a lifeline to Lomphat and provides BirdLife the mandate to guard it within the long-term.

A key to this has been ‘zoning’ the sanctuary right into a mosaic of areas. A core zone and conservation zones have ranger patrols to guard particularly essential areas, and in neighborhood zones, persons are supported to make use of pure sources sustainably. The land transformed by personal corporations below the ELC symbolize about 20% of the panorama, the place they’re permitted to proceed producing commodities like dragon fruit and bananas however with a lot stricter limits.

BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme now works to safeguard the remaining biodiversity, with a concentrate on three precedence species: Giant Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis and Sarus Crane. But they can not obtain this alone. To guarantee Lomphat’s survival, BirdLife Cambodia is working with native folks and the federal government so sources are used sustainably and forest degradation could be ended.

A precedence was working with the concession employees. The current personal sector farms introduced an inflow of employees who initially, having migrated from lowland Cambodia, didn’t have an innate connection and concern for the land. Many carried out unlawful actions similar to inserting traps and snares to hunt wildlife, and combatting this has not been simple. “When we ask the concession employees to not enter the habitat, some observe and respect the recommendation however others understandably say ‘we have to discover meals’”, explains Sovannarith. “The downside is that though they principally wish to catch small birds, the snares are usually not discriminate.”

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A number of years after the ELC was ended, Lomphat’s biodiversity suffered one other heavy blow. Lomphat used to host three species of Critically Endangered vulture: Red-headed Sarcogyps calvus, Slender-billed Gyps tenuirostris and White-rumped Gyps bengalensis. However, in 2016, an ELC employee was discovered liable for a poisoning occasion close to the ‘vulture restaurant’ (the place carcasses are introduced for the birds to feed on). Since then, solely Red-headed have been recorded within the space. Still, regardless of such a devastating setback, there may be a lot left to guard at Lomphat.

With his group, Sovannarith has been working with the businesses’ managers to teach the employees together with holding occasions screening a video showcasing the distinctive biodiversity of the panorama. Many have modified their methods, with ex-trappers now working with BirdLife and the police to report snares within the forest.


Local people are employed to monitor and safeguard the forest © Bryna Griffin


Around the villages, encroachment upon the forest to develop agricultural actions is a serious downside, however the communities listed here are among the many poorest in all Southeast Asia so that they want help and incentives to vary their lives and wellbeing. They develop crops to promote similar to rice, mango and cashew, however market costs fluctuate and can’t present a safe earnings. Over the years, increasingly have resorted to unlawful actions similar to logging and poaching. BirdLife’s work subsequently goals to account for the wants of each nature and folks by placing sustainable livelihood alternate options excessive on its agenda, similar to incentivised forest-friendly farming strategies like IBIS Rice (see beneath).

Now, by means of persistent environmental training, native folks have come to see the advantages of biodiversity and turn into passionate in regards to the trigger for themselves. The Cambodian authorities permitted a Community Protected Area (CPA), by which communities monitor, patrol and handle entry to the land’s sources sustainably. BirdLife works intently with them: “Before we labored with the neighborhood, a whole lot of criminal activity occurred within the CPA however now there may be nearly none”, says Sovannarith. “They shield their forest nicely; they discover nests and roosts, they participate in chook censuses, they be a part of us for each exercise.”

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Communities are spreading the phrase on their very own accord and even going into native main and secondary faculties to teach the following era on the worth of nature and conservation – one thing not but on the college curriculum in Cambodia. Additionally, farmers have direct contact with BirdLife and willingly report nesting and sightings of the three precedence chook species of their rice fields.

It’s the people-positive work that provides hope for Lomphat and can allow its massive birds to rebound throughout the panorama. The way forward for our planet relies upon upon folks understanding our connection to nature: trying round, confronting one another and asking, “what’s occurring to our house?”


Ibis rice

BirdLife International Cambodia Programme

To enhance the earnings of native folks while having a constructive affect on the native setting, BirdLife have developed a wildlife-friendly rice challenge, based mostly on close by success of IBIS Rice in one other of BirdLife’s precedence websites in Cambodia, Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary – a scheme whereby farmers agree to not hunt, log or encroach upon the forest and develop their crop organically, in return for receiving a premium worth for his or her rice. The group have carried out a feasibility research utilizing funding from the BirdLife Forest Landscape Sustainability Accelerator and are actually introducing it at Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary, with continued help from the Accelerator.

This work is a part of the Trillion Trees imaginative and prescient. Find out extra at