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Government of Cambodia declares Sarus Crane Reserve

BirdLife success

One of the most globally important sites for the South-east Asian race sharpii of Sarus Crane Grus antigone – the fastest declining of the three races of this Vulnerable species – has been declared a reserve after several years of active lobbying by the Wildlife Protection Office of the Forestry Administration in partnership with BirdLife International in Indochina. The Council of Ministers of the Government of Cambodia has now approved a proposal to protect nearly 9,000 hectares, comprising 919 ha of core area and 8,305 ha in total, of seasonally inundated grassland in Takeo Province in south-eastern Cambodia. The process to complete the notification of the Boeung Prek Lapouv Sarus Crane Conservation Area was recently completed upon signing of a Prime Ministerial Decree by His Excellency Hun Sen.

The site is used by up to 300 Sarus Cranes, nearly 40% the global population of the race sharpii. The Sarus Cranes arrive in December and remain until February when the site dries-up. There are only three other sites regularly used by this sub-species during the non-breeding season. Of these two are in Cambodia and the third in Vietnam. All three of these sites are under conservation management but only two are currently protected by law. BirdLife and the Forestry Administration are now working to have the third Cambodian site at Kampong Trach, also protected by law. “BirdLife has been working with our colleagues at the Forestry Administration to establish Boeung Prek Lapouv as a protected area for about five years,” said Jonathan C. Eames, Programme Manager for BirdLife International in Indochina.

The Forestry Administration (FA) is part of Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the work which has resulted in the ‘gazettement’ of the the IBA as a protected area was led by Mr Seng Kim Hout, who was seconded to BirdLife from the Wildlife Protection Office of the FA, and his colleague Mr Men Phymean, Director of the Wildlife Protection Office.

Seng Kim Hout is also first author of the Directory of Important Bird Areas in Cambodia: key sites for conservation, where a fuller description of Boeung Prek Lapouv IBA is available (Click here).

Eames said that the proposal had been through many iterations, and the final area approved was somewhat smaller than BirdLife had lobbied for. “However, the site is located in one of the poorest and most densely populated parts of Cambodia. It is a tribute to the Cambodian Government that they put conservation first over allocation of the land to rice cultivation, which they could easily have done.” Bou Vorsak, Cambodia Acting Programme Manager for BirdLife’s work in Cambodia, said this was a landmark decision for BirdLife. “This is the first protected area in Cambodia that we have proposed and succeeded in having the government gazette. We are proud of this achievement.”

Since 2003, Boeung Prek Lapouv has been patrolled by a Site Support Group established by BirdLife, which has successfully prevented incursions by dry season rice farmers and hunters (particularly from Vietnam as the sites lied very close to the international frontier), as well as raising awareness of the importance of the area’s biodiversity, and the benefits of sustainable use, among the local communities. Other threats faced by the site include water draw-off for rice irrigation and the spread of the invasive plant Mimosa pigra.

4th July 2014