The Council of Ministers is expected to adopt a draft sub-decree today creating a reserve in Kampot province to protect birds including endangered cranes, officials said.
Forestry officials have already began to conserve the proposed 217-hectares of richly vegetated grassland, which is the migratory home of rare red-headed cranes in Kompong Trach district’s Boeng Sala Khang Tbong commune, said Hong Phoeung, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Chhouk district division.
The area was first studied for preservation of the birds in 2001, and three years later officials started to work with the local community to curb poaching there, Mr Phoeung said. “We have the local community helping to patrol the area to prevent the hunting and poisoning of birds,” he said.
Thun Sarath, Forestry Administration spokesman, said that he hoped the Council of Ministers would adopt the sub-decree and that the subsequent reserve would be tightly managed.
“We have to conserve the area where the cranes look for food,” Mr Sarath said.
The rare Eastern Saurus Crane, measuring about 1.3 meters tall, was first found in Cambodia in 1998. Said to be the world’s highest-flying bird, the cranes are estimated to number only about 1,500 in the world.
The number of crane sightings has steadily been on the rise in Kompong Trach district since 2002, when they were very rarely seen, said Oum Sinath, Kompong Trach district governor. “We have spotted an increasing number of cranes every year from about 20 in past years to about 300” last year,” Mr Sinath said.
The cranes usually migrate from Cambodia’s northern provinces to Kompong Trach district grassland between November and May at a time when the area is rich in food sources, especially crabs, he said. Mr Sinath said that when the area is preserved well and the cranes are protected then tourists would visit the area in order to catch a glimpse of the birds.
The cranes already have a 10,000-hectare conservation area in Banteay Meanchey province.