Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra on April 10 highlighted the importance of the giant ibis census, the latest of which indicated that Cambodia currently has a population of about 300 – equal to 99 per cent of the world’s giant ibis.

Pheaktra’s remarks came as NatureLife Cambodia – a conservation organisation established with support from BirdLife International and financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund – were conducting its second giant ibis census in Ratanakkiri province’s Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary. The first was carried out in 2019. The organisation expects to release the results of the second census at the end of this year.

Pheaktra said giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea) – recognised as Cambodia’s national bird – is known to nest in a number of wildlife sanctuaries, including Lumphat, Keo Seima, Chheb and Kulen Promtep. There was also an increase in sighting of hatchlings.

“This collaboration between the environment ministry and a number of NGOs protects the nests of giant Ibis – and other endangered species – so that from the moment they form their nests, they are safe to breed. Once the young are hatched, we make sure they are safe, because they are rare,” he said.

He added that to protect this rare species, both on land and in the wetlands, rangers worked with NGOs to inspect the areas regularly to eliminate any traps or poison bait stations that could kill or injure the bird.

Pheaktra said the ministry led a zero-snare campaign, aimed at protecting not only four-legged species but also birds. Officials also had to reckon with the nets designed to capture birds.

“We need to work together to protect all of the endangered species, but especially the giant Ibis, as it represents our nation. The Kingdom is the only place in the world where this bird can be seen in any numbers,” he said.

NatureLife Cambodia said on April 8 that this dry season, their teams were conducting a census of non-breeding giant ibis at the Lumpat Wildlife sanctuary for 2022.

“The results of the 2019 census estimate that Lomphat sanctuary supports at least 32 adult giant ibis,” it wrote on its Facebook page.

According to NatureLife, the giant Ibis is listed as a critically endangered species, so it is important to understand the population trends of this important species during the non-breeding season. This will contribute to developing an effective conservation action plan.