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Cambodian Vulture Culture

Significant vulture discovery in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia 11 June 2004 BirdLife International and the Wildlife Conservation Society today announced a significant find of highly threatened Slender-billed and White-rumped Vultures in Indochina. More than 120 birds were counted in Siem Pang District, north-eastern Cambodia, the largest single gathering recorded in Indochina during the past 15 years. Most significant, however, was the observation of at least 28 Slender-billed Vultures, the rarest of the Asian vulture species. This is one of the highest numbers recorded anywhere in the species` range during recent years, and at least four times greater than the previous largest single count in Indochina. Populations of White-rumped, Slender-billed and Indian Vultures have plummeted in South Asia over the past decade, most severely in India, where numbers have dropped by 97 percent since 1993, and are dropping by 30?40% annually in Pakistan. Research has revealed that these declines are caused by veterinary use of the drug diclofenac. Vultures feeding on carcases of cattle treated with diclofenac are poisoned and eventually die within a short time.

Fortunately, diclofenac appears to be only rarely used for veterinary use in Cambodia, said Dr Sean Austin, Country Manager for BirdLife International`s Cambodia Programme so presently there are relatively few barriers to successful conservation of vultures in this country. Their greatest threats appear to be a lack of available food, by direct persecution through hunting, through capture for the pet trade and for their perceived medicinal value.The recent discovery was made during a vulture restaurant training course held in Siem Pang District, Stung Treng Province . In South Africa vulture feeding stations have become tourist attractions, and this management strategy might be successfully implemented in Cambodia`s protected areas and forests. Supplementary feeding of vultures is a relatively simple and effective conservation action for us to undertake, said Austin. Given the catastrophic decline of vultures elsewhere in Asia, Cambodia could provide an important stronghold.

A working group has been formed from representatives of BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the ministries of Environment and Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of the Royal Government of Cambodia. Its goal is to co-ordinate conservation activities for vultures and to develop a specific action and management strategy aimed at protecting vultures across northern Cambodia. The group was formed during a meeting of the Dry Forest Coalition (representatives from relevant NGOs and government institutions in Cambodia), whose goal is to bring an organised, cohesive conservation approach to the dry forests of central Indochina.BirdLife International and WCS believe that the next priorities in the battle to save vultures from extinction in Cambodia are:

1. A ban on the distribution and sale of veterinary medicine containing diclofenac in Cambodia
2. Establishing a monitoring programme to determine vulture population sizes and trends
3. Protection and monitoring of breeding sites

For further information, please contact:
Dr Sean C. Austin at BirdLife International-Cambodia Programme Tel. +855-23-993-631, austin.birdlife@online.com.kh
Mr Joe Walston at Wildlife Conservation Society ? Cambodia Tel. +855-23-217-205, jwalston@wcs.org
Dr Chris Bowden at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Tel. +44 (0)1767 680551, chris.bowden@rspb.org.uk

4th July 2014