Species Champion

In August 2007 In Focus became the first official BirdLife Species Champion in agreeing help the White-shouldered Ibis avoid extinction. This was announced at the 2007 Birdfair opening ceremony at the launch of a huge new BirdLife International project to save Critically Endangered Species. In Focus was congratulated on their immediate support of this vital initiative. The Birdfair is Global Programme Sponsor of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme and is raising funds during the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Birdfairs to kick-start and develop this programme.

BirdLife International aims to find Species Champions to help fund conservation for the world’s 190 most threatened birds - those categorised as Critically Endangered Species on the IUCN Red List.

One of In Focus’ directors said ’we are delighted to be the first of the Species Champions in a fight to avoid the extinction of some of our most precious bird species from around the globe. Our commitment to Birdfair for the last 28 years as main sponsors is further strengthened by our backing of this vital project’.

The White-shouldered Ibis is a Critically Endangered species with an extremely small, extremely rapidly declining and severely fragmented population. Deforestation, drainage of wetlands, hunting and disturbance has all combined to put tremendous pressure on this red data species.

BirdLife International    White-shouldered Ibis

The White-shouldered Ibis occurs in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and East Kalimantan, Indonesia. It has declined dramatically during the twentieth century and has been described as the most threatened large waterbird in South-East Asia. The species has an extremely small, declining and severely fragmented population (numbering fewer than 250 mature individuals) as a result of deforestation, drainage of wetlands, hunting and disturbance. It is projected to decline by >80% over the next three generations (25 years). Western Siem Pang, Cambodia, is the most important site in the world for the species: 108 birds were recorded in November 2006. The government has made a commitment in principle to designate the area a Protected Forest, but it is currently threatened by plans for a plantation concession, which would result in large-scale forest clearance, road development and immigration into the area.

Actions being implemented

1. A proposal to establish a Protected Forest in Western Siem Pang has been prepared, reviewed at a provincial workshop, revised to incorporate the input of the provincial authorities and then approved by the Provincial Governor. The finalised documents are now with the Wildlife Protection Office. The new proposal increases the total area from 123,717 ha to 164,299 ha following requests from local grassroots and provincial authorities. The extended boundary reaches the international Cambodia-Lao border to the north, the western boundary of Virachey National Park to the east, and to Kanjang Kok village in the south.

2. The government have been lobbied to complete the notification process, and in September 2008 the Deputy Governor of Stung Treng issued a letter in support of the proposal to designate Western Siem Pang a Protected Forest. In October 2008, the executive summary from a master’s degree on the ecology of White-shouldered Ibis was translated into Khmer and circulated to the Stung Treng Governor and the Chief of the Stung Treng Forestry Administration in Phnom Penh. A district stakeholder meeting took place in August 2008 involving, amongst others, a Deputy District Governor and representatives of the police and army, with outputs including the agreement to collaborate to increase awareness of local people to stop trapping, hunting, poisoning and trading of wildlife, to promote the sustainable use of wetlands and to investigate illegal gun and chainsaw use. The results of a questionnaire to evaluate the impact of awareness raising were expected in January 2009. Sixty signs covering sustainable use and forest law were produced in November 2008, and will be placed along important trails and trapeangs including areas where White-shouldered Ibis roost.

3. A Local Conservation Group at Western Siem Pang has been supported since August 2007. The group, including former hunters, conducts monthly patrols to the most important trapeangs (seasonal wetlands) to record key species and any illegal activities. Two key roosting sites (holding up to 50 and 34 birds respectively) are now being regularly monitored by the LCG following information received from local people.

4. Research and monitoring continues, focusing on the foraging ecology of the species, and examining the influence of traditional land management practices on the foraging and breeding ecology of White-shouldered Ibis.

Largest ever count of White-shouldered Ibis


161 White-shouldered Ibis have been counted at Western Siem Pang, Cambodia, confirming it as the species global stronghold Conservationists from the Birdlife International Cambodia Programme and University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, recently counted the largest number of White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni ever recorded. At least 161 were counted; confirming that Western Siem Pang, Cambodia, is the single most important site for the species. The total number of White-shouldered Ibis is likely to be even higher than this figure, as many more roost sites are being found in Western Siem Pang.

“Western Siem Pang consistently yields the highest counts of this species anywhere in the world. I am thrilled we have broken our best ever count yet again”, said Jonathan Eames, Programme Manager of Birdlife International in Indochina.

"We just don’t know why we have so many White-shouldered Ibis at Western Siem Pang. My hunch is that the species is resident so we are not recording movements of birds from elsewhere. I also believe that cattle and buffalo stocking density is key to understanding the density and abundance of the species”, said Eames.

Western Siem Pang is home to Cambodia’s 'Big Five'. The site currently supports five Critically Endangered bird species. The other four are: Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea, White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris, and Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus.

“Western Siem Pang consistently yields the highest counts of this species anywhere in the world. I am thrilled we have broken our best ever count yet again” —Jonathan Eames, BirdLife

"The numbers of White-shouldered Ibis and the presence of populations of four other Critically Endangered species, make Western Siem Pang an irreplaceable site we have got to conserve”, Eames continued.

Western Siem Pang is currently unprotected. BirdLife has been active at the site for several years already, undertaking species monitoring and awareness activities. Together with the Forestry Administration, BirdLife is now actively advocating the designation of a Protected Forest covering a large part of the site.

“In order to save this species a great deal of research is required to understand its ecology and relationships with local people. As research continues we hope to provide concrete conservation recommendations for this species”, said UEA PhD student Hugh Wright.

White-shouldered Ibis is one of the species benefitting from the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme. In August 2007, In Focus became a Species Champion for White-shouldered Ibis. The programme is spearheading greater conservation action, awareness and funding support for all of the world's most threatened birds, starting with the 192 species classified as Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat.


In Focus