The Ministry of Environment and partner NGOs working in wildlife protection said they recorded 754 white-shouldered ibis during their annual survey from July to October, indicating a “slight increase” compared to last year.

The ministry said on December 10: “This is a positive sign showing a slight increase in this highly endangered species, thanks to the efforts made by the environment ministry, partner NGOs, and relevant stakeholders, by joining hands to protect these birds.”

The white-shouldered ibis (Pseudibis davisoni) is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as “critically endangered”.

Among the 754 birds, 373 (49.47 per cent) were found in Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng province, 252 others (33.42 per cent) in Sambor Wildlife Sanctuary in Kratie province, and the remaining 129 (17.11 per cent) were found in other wildlife sanctuaries, the ministry said.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said peace was an enabling factor for the protection of Cambodia’s natural resources and biodiversity.

The ministry and partner NGOs’ efforts to actively protect the Kingdom’s wildlife and biodiversity were made in a highly responsible and professional manner in the interest of future generations.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Environment, I thank partners and the people for their protection of the white-shouldered ibis. Their actions are of great value for global biodiversity protection, valuable for attracting tourists to eco-tourism, which can bring income for the community and national economy,” he said.

The ministry noted that the ibis species originated from the Southeast Asian region and that their numbers dropped sharply in the late 20th century. Globally, there are more than 1,000 birds, over 670 of which are adults, it said.

Cambodia provides a suitable habitat for the species and boasts the largest population of the endangered ibis, it said.

The birds are commonly found at Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng, Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces, along the Mekong River in Kratie’s Sambor Wildlife Sanctuary, Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province, and the Eastern Plains Landscape in Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, it added.

White-shouldered ibis recorded in wildlife sanctuaries in Cambodia. ENVIRONEMENT MINISTRY

The ministry warned that the ibises are under threat from deforestation, habitat loss, water pollution and disturbance from human-related activities.

The population surged 213.87 per cent from 310 in 2009 to 973 in 2013, but dropped significantly to fewer than 500 in 2015-2016, it said.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature Cambodia country director Seng Teak voiced delight at the uptick in population, which he said bucked the global trend of dwindling numbers. He chalked this up to “positive steps” in joint efforts between the ministry and partners.

“WWF, as one of the partners, will continue to work closely with all relevant players to support the surveys and preservation efforts, and will actively participate with communities in flooded forest areas along the Mekong River to protect this rare species, their nests and habitats,” he said.

Other NGOs involved in wildlife protection, including NatureLife Cambodia and Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), also heralded the population growth and pledged to continue their collaboration in wildlife and natural resource protection.