Vulture population rising in Cambodia

27 Jun 2012  1132 | Cambodia Events

Phnom Penh, June 26 — Vultures, which are critically endangered across Asia, are increasing in numbers in Cambodia.

Even as they face major threats in other parts of Asia, the Cambodian story raises hopes that these scavengers can come back from the brink.

"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.

Clements led a study on the birds along with Cambodian officials.

Vultures almost everywhere are facing dangers to their existence due largely to a veterinary drug diclofenac, according to the journal Bird Conservation International.

Widely used as an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle in South Asia, diclofenac is toxic to vultures, causing death through renal failure and visceral gout to birds that feed on the cattle carcasses.

It has led to a global population declines higher than 99 percent in some vulture species, according to a WCS statement.

The slender-billed vulture, white-rumped vulture and red-headed vulture are all listed "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

According to the Cambodian study, while the vulture populations remains robust, the use of poison by hunters and fishers for capturing other species are leading to unintended vulture mortalities.

"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.

"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," he said.

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