Critically Endangered Vulture Populations on the Rise in Cambodia
Cambodia has become the last refuge for the Southeast Asian vultures, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Royal Government of Cambodia.
The authors of the work started a census for the scavengers in 2004, collecting data from several sites in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam. They monitored vulture nesting sites and feeding stations, took health assessments of vultures, used satellite transmitter vests on 4 birds to assess their movement patterns, and conducted interviews with government officials, hunters, and wildlife traders to determine the threats to the birds.
Like Us on Facebook
They found that the use of poison by hunters and fishers for capturing other species are leading to unintended vulture mortalities. According to the data, 74 percent of the 42 recorded mortalities during the study period were attributable to poison. Direct persecution (the shooting of vultures with guns and slingshots) was also significant, accounting for 10 percent of recorded vulture mortality.
Unlike neighboring nations, Cambodia's vulture population remains robust, says the study, largely because the country doesn't use an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle that is common in other Southeast Asian countries. The drug, diclofenac, is toxic to fultures, causing kidney failure and gout when the birds feast on cattle carcases. It has led to a global population declines higher than 99 percent in some vulture species.
"Fortunately, the Royal Government of Cambodia has instituted measures to ban diclofenac to ensure the survival of these important birds," said Joe Walston, director of WCS's Asia Program, according to UPI.
The numbers in Cambodia are heartening, as the vulture population rises there, despite more widespread declines. "Results from vulture censuses from past several years have been encouraging, with new nests recorded and even population increases," said Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researcher Tom Clements, according to New York Daily News.
"The challenge now is to reduce the indirect and direct persecution of vultures, specifically from poisoning and shooting, and longer-term pressures from habitat loss."
The researchers also suggest that the creation of new feeding stations, or vulture "restaurants," could help restore the populations of the critically endangered species.
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.