Saturday, October 21, 2006

Eco-tourism & vultures on the map

Cambodia is in the horns of a dilemma, its people need to utilise the land to settle and produce rice and other crops, its wildlife needs natural habitat to survive. Its a dilemma faced by countries across the globe. In Cambodia, the natural habitat is dwindling at a fast rate, so the necessity to identify and promote eco-tourism before its too late has never been more important. At the forefront of this battle is the Wildlife Conservation Society, who are working in tandem with the government and local communities in Cambodia to promote wildlife conservation. Current projects are focusing on developing bird-watching at several sites across northern Cambodia with these sites designed to engage local communities in conservation, through establishing links between tourism income and donations, local community development and nature conservation. Some of the bird species that can be seen are amongst the rarest in Southeast Asia, including the critically endangered Giant Ibis, Bengal Florican and others. The key sites are the large waterbird colonies at Prek Toal, the ibises at Tmatboey near Tbeng Meanchey, the floricans in Kompong Thom and the cranes at Ang Trapeang Thmor.

One of the more unusual schemes is the vulture 'restaurant' in Chhep district, some five hours drive to the east of Tbeng Meanchey. WCS works closely with the local community to provide vulture watchers with an opportunity to see rare white-rumped (pictured above), slender-billed and red-headed vultures. Giant Ibises can be seen in the area, in addition to adjutants, cranes, and many others including white-winged ducks. WCS maintains a forest camp for tourists and field staff about 1km from the vulture feeding station. A complete restaurant takes 5-6 days, from killing the cow to when the vultures leave the area. Peak numbers are seen on days 2-4. The restaurant costs around $200 to organize which includes the cost of the cow, maintaining hides, and WCS field rangers, transport, food and accommodation is extra. On the subject of vultures, the latest census has just been completed using a series of vulture restaurants conducted in seven locations across northern Cambodia. The results show an encouraging increase in the total population of vultures from 160 in 2004 to nearly 250 earlier this year. You can find out more about the work of WCS in Cambodia here.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation (SVC)has partnered with WCS to take birders to the vulture restaurant site as well as Tmatboey and other important bird areas. SVC is charged with providing responsible tourism where communities benefit and habitats and wildlife are protected. The website is: www.samveasna.org.