Cambodia remains home to more than half of the world’s white-shouldered ibis, with 754 of the worldwide estimated population of 1,000 present in the Kingdom, according to a recent census.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra announced on December 20 that two new nests had been recorded in the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary of Ratanakkiri province, noting that the species is also present in several other protected areas.

Pheaktra said the species is categorised as critically endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. It was once common across Southeast Asia, but the population declined sharply in the 20th century.

“Currently, the global population of white-shouldered ibis is estimated at around 1,000, with 670 of them adults. Cambodia provides a strong habitat for them as we have the largest number of this species in the world,” he claimed.

The results of the latest ministry census throughout Cambodia in 2021 – conducted in collaboration with partner organisations such as NatureLife Cambodia, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) and Rising Phoenix – show that Cambodia has 754 white-shouldered ibises.

Pheaktra said this was an indication of its positive work in protecting the natural resources and treasures of the Kingdom.

He added that the species was present in Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary, Kulen Prom Tep Wildlife Sanctuary, Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, the eastern lowland landscape and along the Mekong River. However, they are threatened by the loss of habitat, pollution and disruption by human activities.

“The ministry has cooperated with partner organisations to conserve the ibis population since 2009. When we began the work, we recorded just 310 white-shouldered ibis in the first census,” he said.

Over the next four years, the number increased to 973 in 2013, but this number dropped significantly to less than 500 between 2015- 2016. Numbers were on the rise again however, as shown by the 754 that were recorded in 2021.

Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary is an important habitat for them, with a total of 373 recorded, followed by the Sambo Wildlife Sanctuary in Kratie province which had 252 animals.

According to WCS Cambodia, the white-shouldered ibis is an important and symbolic species of the northern highlands of the country. It contributes to increasing the income from eco-tourism, which is important for the Tmat Boey community in Preah Vihear province.