abcg October 5, 2020 0

Make Way for Extremely Rare Ducklings

WCS Cambodia released an image of an endangered white-winged duckling (Asacornis scutulata) the moment it left its nest in a tree cavity with its mother at its side.

The duckling is believed to be one of five fledglings conservationists have been tracking in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary of Preah Vihear province. 

Khean and his team installed camera traps at the nest site to capture as much information as possible with little disturbance. These ducks prefer to nest in cavities of mature trees, unfortunately these same trees are highly sought after for the illegal timber trade.

Situated at a height of four meters above the ground, camera trapping this nest was no easy feat. Regardless, Khean and his dedicated team of Community Biodiversity Researchers were able to deploy two camera traps, and the results were astounding.

White-winged ducks (Asacornis scutulata) are currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Globally Endangered with less than one thousand individuals remaining in the wild, mostly in India and Myanmar.

Simon Mahood, Senior Technical Advisor for WCS said: “This is such an important species, the habitats in which they are found are unique and must be preserved in order to protect this, and a myriad other species. The results of this monitoring are extremely encouraging and show that with community involvement and strong partnership between all stakeholders conservation efforts can be successful.”

WCS, in collaboration with the Provincial Department of Environment and other partners, have been working with local people in this area to provide long-term protection for this important species for the past decade – a partnership that has yielded many interesting results.

In December 2015, villagers who were by then well-informed of the status and importance of the white-winged duck, intervened to rescue a female in moult. During the period of moulting the ducks are naturally unable to fly, making them extremely vulnerable to predators. After a short time in care at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), the duck was successfully released back to the site. Two years later in 2017, villagers reported a nest sighting and WCS Nest Protectors were immediately posted at the location. The Nest Protection Scheme is just one of the Payment for Ecosystem Services used by conservationists to provide alternative sources of income to those living in or close to protected areas. Local villagers were employed to safeguard the nest site resulting in a successful fledging of nine White-winged Ducks. The ring on its leg confirmed that this was the duck that had been rehabilitated in ACCB. In December 2019, villagers once again contacted WCS reporting that the same female had once again been rescued during her annual moult. Whilst it is not ideal to have captured the duck, the proximity to local villages and farmland meant there was a high likelihood she would have been killed by domestic dogs.

Said Mao Khean, WCS Biodiversity Team Leader. “We were excited when the news came in that the nest was once again occupied by a White-winged Duck, when we discovered it was a new female, we were very pleased.”

Cambodia is experiencing a multi-year drought; the seasonal streams have not been spared and it was only in June 2020 once water had resumed flowing that she was once again released following a period of convalescence at ACCB. This female has been tagged with harmless identification leg rings and so is easily identified by the researchers. WCS were therefore pleasantly surprised when a month later in July a different female was found to be occupying her nest, this new female was incubating seven eggs and once again Nest Protectors were quick to act.

Notes to Editors:

White-winged Duck (Asacornis scutulata)

White-winged duck populations continue declining as a result of disturbance and loss of crucially important riverine habitats. Currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Globally Endangered their small and very fragmented global population of c. 1000 individuals is spread across India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia (c.100). White-winged duck rely on undisturbed riverine habitats, nesting high up above the forest floor in tree holes or crevasses of tall mature trees which are often targeted for the illegal timber trade.

Prey Veng Ecotourism Project

The Ministry of Environment in collaboration the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) established the Prey Veng Eco-Tourism Project in 2010 with the aim of conserving the globally threatened White-winged duck found in the surrounding forest of Prey Veng village located in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary. At Prey Veng, site-based tourism services are organised by the community, with facilitation and training provided by WCS and its local partner Sam Veasna Centre (SVC). Paying visitors directly demonstrate the value of wildlife to the community both through conservation contributions to the village development fund and through individual payments for services. All tourism activities in the village are managed by the locally-elected Community Protected Area Committee. This link is provided by a community conservation agreement between Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, WCS and the community. The agreement stipulates that tourism revenue is subject to the villagers agreeing to manage habitats and protect species, through a village land-use plan.

Partners

Communities in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary together with a consortium of organizations comprising the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), USAID Greening Prey Lang Project, the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and Department for Administration of Nature Conservation Protection (GDANCP), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies (MACP), Darwin Initiative and Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation (SVC) all lead efforts to monitor and conserve the White-winged duck and its riverine forest habitat home in Cambodia.

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