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First Comprehensive Florican Survey

Preserving Grassland a Conservation Priority

Between 20 March and 13 May 2006, a comprehensive survey for Bengal Florican and other grassland bird species was jointly conducted by BirdLife and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap lake, Cambodia. Information gained during the survey will be a foundation for locating critical habitats for the species in Cambodia.

Bengal Floricans Eupodotis bengalensis are found only in India, Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia. They are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and face a very high risk of extinction in the medium term future. Cambodia is suspected to hold the largest surviving population.This first comprehensive survey for Bengal Florican and grassland habitat around the Tonle Sap has demonstrated rapid grassland loss due to agricultural expansion, particularly in Kompong Thom and Siem Reap provinces. This highlights the importance of safeguarding remaining grassland areas. New florican populations were discovered during the survey but they were all smaller than those at previously known sites in Kompong Thom province. However the presence of Bengal Florican, albeit at lower densities, in three grassland blocks in Banteay Meanchey and Battambang and an additional area in Seam Reap suggests survey, educational and habitat protection work should be initiated in these areas. A crude estimate, to be subsequently refined, puts the Cambodian Bengal Florican population at between 700 and 900 individuals.

"Given the rate of grassland loss, safeguarding the remaining grassland areas identified in this survey containing Bengal Florican must be a conservation priority. Survival of this species in Cambodia depends on safe-guarding these key areas from future development and disturbance. The WCS and the Forest Administration initiated and BirdLife supported Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas (IFBAs) are important steps to this end. If successful, these initiatives should be repeated across all remaining grassland areas," said University of East Anglia PhD student Tom Gray, the survey team leader.

4th July 2014