USAID Morodok Baitang and their conservation partner Rising Phoenix have announced the discovery of 15 critically endangered vulture nests in the Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng province.

The exciting news represents measurable success in their protection of the rare species, as only 13 nests were identified last year.

The latest surveys were conducted during the vulture breeding season, as part of ongoing vulture conservation efforts.

USAID Morodok Baitang shared the positive news to celebrate this year’s May 17 Endangered Species Day.

 “The success rate of hatching has also improved, with only one nest failing compared to three nests that failed last year,” it said.

Vultures are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, indicating that they are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

They are scavenger birds that primarily feed on carrion, serving as nature’s cleaners by consuming dead animals and helping maintain environmental balance. However, their population has severely declined worldwide over the past few decades, including in Cambodia, due to two main reasons: a lack of food and the poisoning of animal carcasses by humans. 

To prevent vulture extinction, USAID Morodok Baitang and Rising Phoenix have set up weekly “vulture restaurants”, to provide secure food sources that keep the birds within the protected area and away from unsafe food.

Rising Phoenix also uses GPS tagging to monitor the movements and these critically endangered species, as well as conducting searches for nests and making sure that the nests are protected, according to USAID Morodok Baitang.

A team is currently monitoring the newly hatched chicks. It will continue to do so until they are mature enough to fly out of the nest. 

Last year’s vulture census recorded 131 vultures in three protected areas: the Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary, where 93 vultures were found; Cheb Wildlife Sanctuary, where 31 birds were recorded, and in the flooded Mekong area in Kratie province, where seven were identified. 

Bou Vorsak, executive director of NaturelLife Cambodia, noted that vulture numbers have remained stable in Cambodia for the last five years, despite the species becoming extinct in neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand.

He believed the stability of the vulture population was due to the joint efforts by the government and its partner conservative NGOs, through a 10-year Vulture Action Plan.

“The Vulture Action Plan focuses on the protection of vulture habitats, poison-use prevention, education of the public and the provision of food. It is these efforts that are helping the population to grow,” he said.

Several well-known conservation NGOs have established vulture conservation teams, and meet regularly with the ministries of environment and agriculture, forestry and fisheries.