Over the past century, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has established long-term conservation presence in the last wild places across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, built strong and trusting partnerships, and acquired a depth of knowledge that ensures effective conservation action. We protect these last wild places because they are intact, biodiverse, most resilient to climate change, and bastions for large, iconic wildlife species.
In Cambodia, WCS is implementing a conservation program for the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile in and around the Sre Ambel River system of Southern Cambodia. WCS Cambodia also works with local communities, government and local NGOs to protect large waterbirds like the White-shouldered Ibis and Giant Ibis at Cambodia’s Northern Plains.
The WCS-Indonesia Program works with the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park to protect the Sumatran Ground Cuckoo. Between 2005 and 2006 WCS-IP conducted an assessment on the distribution and conservation status of the Sumatran Ground Cuckoo in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park through combining camera trap survey, village questionnaire and bird’s market surveys around Bukit Barisan area.
ASAP Species That We Work On
- Siamese Crocodile Crocodylus siamensis
- White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni
- Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea
- Sumatran Ground Cuckoo Carpococcyx viridis
Populations of the Siamese Crocodile have declined over the past 50 years due to over-collecting to stock crocodile farms, illegal hunting for skins and meat and widespread habitat destruction, (Simpson and Bezuijen, 2010).
Even though there are more than 700,000 Siamese crocodiles in commercial farms throughout the region, the genetic integrity of this captive population is threatened by rampant hybridisation with C. porosus and C. rhombifer (Fitzsimmons et al., 2002).
While the Siamese Crocodile formerly occurred in many parts of the region, several remnant populations of questionable long-term viability remain in parts of Cambodia, which likely holds the majority of the global population.
Along the Sre Ambel River in Koh Kong Province, southern Cambodia, persists several small populations of Siamese crocodiles. While the populations are very small, there has been evidence of reproduction. WCS Cambodia is implementing a conservation project which hopes to recover and ensure the long-term viability of these remnant Siamese Crocodile populations.
Together with the Southern River Terrapin, the project site encompasses a near-complete river system, from the coastal mangrove forests and brackish areas, to the freshwater habitats and upper reaches of the river.
Hunting and poaching of chicks and eggs have caused the populations of the White Shouldered Ibis and Giant Ibis to decline.
WCS Cambodia works with the Royal Government of Cambodia to protect and monitor large waterbirds in the Tonle Sap Great Lake and the deciduous forests of the Northern Plains.
WCS Cambodia implements an integrated project to conserve the Critically Endangered ibises and other threatened species of the region. This project is led by WCS in collaboration with local communities, government and other stakeholders. Project components include wildlife-friendly Ibis Rice, the Birds’ Nest Protection scheme and the Tmatboey Ibis Ecotourism, all underpinned by world-class monitoring of species populations, habitat, livelihoods and human well-being.
The Sumatran Ground-cuckoo (Carpococcyx viridis) is regarded as one of the world's rarest and most enigmatic birds. In the face of the ongoing deforestation and bird poaching trends in Sumatra, it is important to ensure the full protection of these identified patches of habitat where the remaining populations of Sumatran Ground-cuckoos occur.
More than two-thirds of original lowland forest and at least one-third of the montane forest cover have been lost over the last thirty years. Agricultural encroachment, including within the north-eastern part of the park, is currently affecting large areas of lower montane forest, which is the main habitat of the Sumatran Ground-cuckoo.
As a ground-forager, the bird is also susceptible to bycatch from poachers using snares; the individual obtained from a hunter by the WCS-IP team in 2007 was almost certainly caught in a snare set for Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus).
Surveys by WCS-IP in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park have shown that the bird only occurs in a few sites in the north-eastern part of the park. These areas also contained a good number of important Sumatran bird species, such as Sumatran Peacock Pheasant, Short-tailed Frogmouth, Graceful Pitta, Cream-striped Bulbul, Black and Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Rail Babbler and the Chestnut-crowned Warbler.
What We Do
WCS Cambodia has outlined five main activities for the conservation project:
- Support community patrols to prevent the illegal harvest or entanglement of crocodiles in fishing gear, illegal fishing, and destruction of habitat.
- Engage local people to locate crocodile nests and collect all nests for incubation at the new facility.
- Establish a captive breeding facility for genetically pure Siamese crocodiles.
- Support the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to finalise Cambodia's 10-year national strategic plan for Siamese crocodile conservation and management.
- Work with the Fisheries Administration and Crocodile Farmers Associations of Siem Reap to identify purebred crocodiles for conservation-breeding
A local community team patrols the Sre Ambel river system, visiting each of the four wetlands where the crocodiles occur at least twice a month. Community teams have also been trained in patrolling techniques, data collection and implementation of SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool), which enables patrolling efforts to be monitored, evaluated, and adaptively managed.
Monitoring and Surveys
Surveys are conducted each month throughout the nesting season to search for crocodile nests and hatchlings, which if found, will be collected for incubation and head-starting at a captive facility.
DNA testing of the existing confiscated crocodiles
WCS is collaborating with the IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group and other partners to develop the facilities and capacity in Cambodia to conduct genetic testing of Siamese crocodile samples within the country.
Developing the capacity to analyse samples within the country will greatly facilitate the ability to identify additional purebred Siamese crocodiles currently in captivity to help enhance captive breeding and reintroduction and reinforcement efforts.
Establishing a captive breeding facility
The WCS team is currently in the process of establishing a facility to hold genetically pure Siamese Crocodile for captive breeding purposes.
Ibis Rice is an award-winning wildlife-friendly product. WCS Cambodia works with local communities to develop land-use plans for villages with globally important populations of ibises. These plans set out areas for growing rice and areas for protection. Local farmers are empowered to adhere to these land-use plans and abide by conservation regulations receive a premium price for their rice from SMP, a local NGO. SMP market and sell the product - Ibis Rice - at participating restaurants and outlets in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Tmatboey Ibis Ecotourism
At Tmatbauy village in Kulen Promptep Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northern Plains, WCS Cambodia has developed a community-based tourism enterprise that links sightings of Giant and White-shoulered Ibises by international bird-watchers and naturalists to direct payments into a Community Development Fund. Villagers also earn money directly from tourists who stay in the lodge. The community have used the Community Development Fund to furnish a library and purchase medical supplies, as well as paying people from the village to protect the ibises. The ecotourism project has since been expanded to Preah Vihear Protected Forest, Prek Toal and other sites in the Tonle Sap Lake.
Nest Protection and Monitoring
Across the Northern Plains, the Birds’ Nest Protection scheme enables local communities to earn an income that is directly related to successful conservation of threatened birds’ nests. Local people receive an initial payment when they report a nest to rangers or conservation staff. They then receive a daily wage for protecting that nest, which is doubled if the nest fledges successfully. The scheme thereby reduces exploitation of eggs and chicks by the community itself while increasing the breeding success of the ibises and other threatened large waterbirds. Up to 500 nests are protected annually across the Northern Plains. Monitoring demonstrates that the populations of species such as White-shouldered Ibis have increased significantly in the Northern Plains, owing to increased breeding success.
Being extremely rare and enigmatic, the bird has become an attraction for birdwatchers. Community members from villages in the vicinity of the park serve as local guides in escorting the mostly foreign tourists to the areas where the birds occur. However, since these activities are currently unregulated, they do not take into account the conservation requirements of this almost unknown species. We would therefore like to propose an approach that would provide conservation benefits by engaging local communities in sustainable birding and biodiversity conservation, including:
- Establish community guide mechanism in collaboration with national park authority
- Establish regulations, code of conduct, and procedures for birding activities
- Organize training and capacity-building activities for guides
- Engage local communities in monitoring and patrolling
Where We Work
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Featured image: Jeremy Holden