White-Shouldered Ibis Numbers More Than Expected

The largest number of critically endangered white-shouldered ibis has been recorded in Cambodia since roost observations started in 2009, experts said Friday.

“We have counted 973 [birds] this year, and in some roosts, there were even between 300 to 400 ibis,” said Bou Vorsak, program manager for BirdLife International Cambodia.

During the rainy season, the white-shouldered ibis, which is about 80 cm long and native to Southeast Asia, lives in colonies in dry forests of palm trees, which are common in Cambodia.

Populations have dwindled in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, but habitats still remain in Cambodia, Mr. Vorsak said, adding that de­forestation is an ongoing threat to the population in Cambodia—which is globally by far the largest.

In a statement, BirdLife International and other conservation groups, such as WWF, said that the previous highest estimate of the Ibis population was 942.

“With the likelihood that there were additional roosts unknown to the survey teams and that individuals therefore went unrecorded, the total population in Cambodia could be even higher, and may exceed 1,000 birds,” the statement says.

Hugh Wright, an expert on the white-shouldered ibis, said that almost 80 percent of these birds live in roosts outside protected areas, making them vulnerable to deforestation.

“The counts have identified Western Siem Pang Proposed Protected Forest as the most important site for this critically endangered species globally, with 451 individuals—equal to 41 percent of the global population, followed by Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary with 298 individuals, however both of these sites are threatened by economic Land Concessions, which will destroy key nesting and forging habitats for this species,” Mr. Wright said in a statement.

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