Strict Control of Bird Sanctuary Land Vowed

Provincial officials have vowed to crack down on land encroachment in an endangered bird sanctuary in Banteay Meanchey prov­ince, Second Deputy Governor Nhiek Kim Chhun said.

Villagers cleared about 30 hectares of land in the sanctuary in late June, when the cultivation season began, but they stopped after being asked to sign agreements not to prepare the land for farming, said Nhan Bunthorn, program officer of the Trapaing Thmar Conservation Reservoir.

The Council of Ministers is­sued a decree protecting the 100,000-hectare conservation area in 1999. Villagers used four tractors to clear land in the protected areas.

Two tractors were confis­cated but later returned, Nhan Bun­thorn said. Six other tractor owners were educated about the sanctuary and ordered to sign agreements not to clear protected land. Provincial authorities are also having trouble dealing with military officials who have cultivated several hundred hectares of rice paddy in the protected area since 1998, a provincial official said.

“Now I am still worried about more encroachments,” Nhan Bun­­thorn said.

Although many birds reside in the sanctuary, officials are mainly concerned about the endangered crane—a rare, red-headed bird dis­covered in Cambodia in late 1998 by researchers from the In­ternational Crane Foundation and Cambodian wildlife officials.

The population of Cranes in Cam­bo­dia has increased from 180 in 2000 to 345 this year, Nhan Bun­thorn said. In March, wildlife officials spotted about 170 more cranes in Takeo’s Borei Cholsar and Koh Andet districts. The discovery came after US and Cam­bo­dian wildlife re­searchers flew to Takeo and found about 12 cranes in October 2000, wildlife officials said.


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