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BirdLife International in Indochina

The Babbler March 2008 Number 24 & 25

BirdLife International in Indochina

Welcome Jonathan C. Eames Features Has BirdLife made a difference at Xuan Thuy National Park? Beuong Prek Lapouv Local Conservation Group: The inside story Regional news Important Bird Area News Rarest of the rare Project updates Conserving Bengal Floricans and improving rural livelihoods around the Tonle Sap, the world’s largest floodplain lake, Cambodia Latest search fails to find the Pinkheaded Duck Integrating watershed and biodiversity management at Chu Yang Sin National Park, Vietnam First Herpetile survey in Chu Yang Sin National Park yields dramatic results White-shouldered ibis research project Searching for the Critically Endangered White-eyed River-martin in Cambodia White-eared Night Heron rediscovered in Vietnam Publications Book reviews Staff news Profile BirdLife International in Indochina is a sub-regional programme of the BirdLife Secretariat operating in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. It currently has two offices in the region: Vietnam Programme Office N6/2+3, Lane 25, Lang Ha Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam. Tel: +84 (0)4 514890 Cambodia Programme Office

Welcome to the latest issue of The Babbler where we present a summary of our work over the last six months covering the period October 2007 to March 2008. This issue contains two features examining BirdLife’s conservation success and failures at Xuan Thuy National Park in Vietnam and at Boeung Prek Lapouv Sarus Crane Reserve in Cambodia. At both sites we have supported traditional protection and enforcement measures combined with the establishment of local conservation groups. It is clear that the results have been very mixed and both sites still face enormous management issues. The bottom line is that the importance of both sites for the species they were originally created to conserve has diminished since BirdLife involvement began, because of increasing human pressures that we have been powerless to resist. There are fewer Black-faced Spoonbills at Xuan Thuy because of conversion of the inter-tidal area to mangrove plantations and aquaculture. Sarus Cranes now leave Boeung Prek Lapouv in February now instead of April, because the site dries-out as a result of too much water being drawn off by rice farmers in he surrounding landscape. To be successful at conserving species and sites we need to explore new ways of working. In future we need to work more within the market system rather than against it. We need to move away from always advocating approaches that seek to support state institutions and desist from peddling novel utopian approaches to co-management as first response approaches. How more effective would we have been if we had joined the land-grab and bought patches of grassland within the Ton Le Sap floodplain four years ago? We should not therefore rush to condemn the Government of Cambodia’s decision to lease its national parks but embrace this as a conservation opportunity we can’t afford to miss. Jonathan C. Eames Programme Manager BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler is the quarterly newsletter of BirdLife International in Indochina and is compiled and edited by Jonathan C. Eames Eames@birdlife.netnam.vn. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of BirdLife International.

#25B Street 294, PO Box 2686 Tonle Basac, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Tel/Fax: + 85523993631 www.birdlifeindochina.org

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Features Has BirdLife made a difference at Xuan Thuy National Park? BirdLife has been supporting conservation at Xuan Thuy National Park for more th an ten years. In th at period annual monitoring has revealed there are now fewer Black-faced Spoonbills Platalea minor and Saunders’s Gulls Larus saundersii wintering at the site. Th is is despite increased allocation of resources for conservation by t he Forest Protection Department, Nam Dinh Province and BirdLife and has included the establishment of a Loca l Conservation Group (LCG) and increased awareness amongst local stakeholders. Have BirdLife’s interventions made a difference and what should we do next – if anyth ing? In th is article, Wetlands Officer Nguyen Duc Tu reviews BirdLife’s track record and a presents a personal view on the way forward. Beginning in 1995, BirdLife and the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI) with support from Danida, began a project entitled the Conservation of Key Wetland Sites in the Red River Delta. The project a imed to assist the identification, eva luation and conservation of key wetland sites in the coasta l zone of the Red River Del t a . Seven priority sites were identif ied, and amongst them, Xuan Thuy Nature Reserve (only la ter was it upgraded to national park) was eva luated as the most important site for biodiversity conservation in the delt a . Beginning in 2001 and continuing into 2002 the Danida-funded project Improved conservation planning through institutional strengthening in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam identified six Important Bird Areas (IBAS) in the Red River Delta and confirmed the global importance Xuan Thuy National Park.

Black-faced Spoonbills Platalea minor at Xuan Thuy Na tional Park. Nowhere now left to roost except shrimp pond banks. Photo: J C Eames S ite-based conservation began at Xuan Thuy in 2000 and continued into 2003 through a Keidanren Natura l Conservation Fund-funded Project entitled Conservation Monitoring at Xuan Thuy Nature Reserve. The project a imed to enhance the technica l capacity of the site staff in biodiversity monitoring. Th is was the first time, reserve staff had received tra ining in basic monitoring skills and, even more important, established a monitoring protocol for the IBA. Th is project was followed by a second Keidanren project th a t ran through 2003 and 2004 entitled Generating community support for the conservation of Xuan Thuy National Park. Th is project a imed to establish a foundation of stakeholder support for and management of the Xuan Thuy National Park. The project raised the conservation awareness of local people about the need for conservation activities (especia l ly bird-protection activities) in the Xuan Thuy area. A h igh ligh t of th is project success was the establishment of the “Con Lu Bird Conservation Club”, currently with 38 members. The LCG th at was established under the project involves the participation of the protected area managers, the commune people’s committee, the police, shrimp-pond owners, shellf ish cultiva tors, border soldiers, and representatives from mass organizations in t h e loca l communities. With inputs from BirdLife in terms of tra inings in conservation monitoring, alternative income generation and the provision of awareness materia ls, the SSG members are now actively supporting t h e park managers in monitoring and awareness raising activities. In 2004 the Japan Fund for Global Environment (JFGE) and Wild Bird Federation Taiwan (WBFT) funded project Furtherance of Bird-ecotourism and community-based conservation wh ich focused on Xuan Thuy National Park was initiated. The project a imed to integrate bird-ecotourism activities at the IBA amongst the LCG. By the end of the project, the awareness of the local auth orities, park staff and local communities on the potenti a l The Babbler 24/25 – March 2008 –2–


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for eco-tourism as a tool for environmental protection and an alternative source of income had been raised. A feasibility study undertaken by th is project was la ter used by park managers and other donors for new initia tives th a t focused on the development of ecotourism in the park. In 2005 Keidanren funded yet another project entitled Conservation of Important Bird Areas in Asia - Follow-up actions for IBAs in Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Mongolia. The main objectives of th is project in Vietnam were to review the current status of Important Bird Areas in the Red River Delta and review current and planned conservation interventions in the area; to conduct awareness activities to ra ise the profile of the IBAs; and to establish a LCG to address the conservation at an IBA in the Red River Delta. Under th is project, a review of the six IBAs in the Red River Delta was undertaken which confirmed again the importance of Xuan Thuy Na tional Park. Some support for Xuan Thuy LCG was also was provided. The LCG continued contribute to t he park management though monitoring and awareness ra ising activities. The United States Ambassador’s Fund funded project Strengthening Community Support for Conservation at Xuan Thuy Important Bird Area began in 2006. Th is project a imed to strengthen support for conservation among loca l stakeholders in Xuan Thuy IBA. The project focused on working with the LCG. Under th is project, a series of tra ining courses were provided to the LCG members on biodiversity monitoring and ecotourism development. A birdwatch ing h ide was build to assist monitoring and birdwatch ing activities, and some equipment was provided. This project was an important step to ensure the susta inability of the LCG as a foundation for community support for the biodiversity conservation of the site.

No room for spoonbills - intensive human-use of the inter-tida l area with in Xuan Thuy National Park. Photo: J C Eames From 2007 to date, BirdLife in collaboration with Vietnam’s Environment Protection Agency has implemented a Darwin Initiative and Ministry of Environment, Japan funded project entitled Strengthening partnerships for Ramsar implementation in South-East Asia. Th is three year project aims to strengthen government-civil socie ty partnersh ips to support the implementation of the Ramsar Convention in South-East Asia. As a part of th is project, several activities are planned to strengthen the LCG. The project plans to support Xuan Thuy Na tional Park management board to design and implement a revised monitoring programme tha t involves the loca l communities. Th is project will last until March 2010. In the last twenty years and since its designation as Vietnam’s first Ramsar Site, Xuan Thuy National Park h as passed severa l important milestones. These have included the establishment of a nature reserve in 1991 and its la ter upgrading to a national park. However, under the dual severe pressures of population increase and economic development, there has been significant h abita t loss at the site over the last decade through continuing afforestation of mangrove on he intertida l mudfla ts and loss of dune vegetation on the sandy islands due to afforestation with the exotic Casuarina equisetifolia. Extensive low input aquaculture has now been replaced with intensive aquaculture resulting in a major reduction in the size of individual shrimp ponds. In turn th is has means increased area of bunds, greater human and disturbance by dogs, and a reduction in t h e mangrove areas with in the shrimp ponds. In addition what was arguably the largest reed-bed in northern V ietnam was also lost to aquaculture intensification.

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Sets aga inst th is are a number of conservation ach ievements: Hunting of shorebirds and waterfowl using nets h as declined significantly in the last decade, at least in the core zone protected area. As a result, the site continues to be the most important location in the Red River Delta for migratory water-birds, and still h osts significant populations of several globally threatened species, a lbeit in reduced numbers from those reported a decade ago, and regionally important numbers of severa l commoner species, with thousands of ducks and shorebirds dependent on the site. Notably, Xuan Thuy regularly hosts severa l Globally Threatened and NearThreatened species, including a population of c. 50 Black-faced Spoonbills, the largest wintering population in V ietnam (a lthough th is is down from over 100 birds in the mid 1990s), and, most significantly, one of very few sites in Vietnam still regularly supporting a small passage and wintering population of the Spoon-billed Sandpipers Eurynorhynchus pygmeus. I believe th at BirdLife’s efforts have significantly contributed to those ach ievements in terms of enhanced management, capacity building (especia lly in conservation monitoring and law enforcement), and establishment of a foundation for community support for the park. In future, I believe th at BirdLife should commit to continuing to support the park management board to conserve and susta inably manage th is globally important site. Ideally, BirdLife would work with the park managers and other stakeholder to develop and adopt a management plan for the national park th a t will he lp bala nce the economic, coasta l protection and biodiversity va lues of different habitats whilst at the same time promoting environmentally susta inable development. This plan should also assist the park managers in law enforcement in terms of capacity building so as to provide them the most up-to-date enforcement and monitoring techniques. Wh ilst at the same time continue to strengthen community support for conservation at Xuan Thuy Na tional Park through the LCG established in 2003 and work towards its self-susta inability. Nguyen Duc Tu Wetlands Officer, BirdLife International Vietnam Programme

W here’s the birdie? The rate of coasta l deposition is so great th a t new islands are continuously formed a t Xuan Thuy and the key areas for wader roosts now lie beyond the boundary of the national park, further frustrating site management. Photo: J C Eames

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Boeung Prek Lapouv Local Conservation Group: The inside story The canal asserts itself as a stra ight-edged gully through rice fields, lined by bare earth banks too high to look over from the boat. These walls are broken occasionally by cuts th a t hold a black hose, humped over the bank to spew silty life-giving, yet chemically-compromised water into the paddy fields. If we stand we can see t h e pla in stretch for miles---a checkerboard of squares of soil, some already green with seedlings. It is the beginning of the dry season rice crop in Boeung Prek Lapouv, a river floodpla in in the south-east corner of Cambodia. Although the landscape is mostly empty of people, the ir impact on th is seasonally inunda ted grassland is seemingly absolute. Wh a t were once soft h il locks of reeds and grasses bounded by meandering streams and pools full of fish and waterfowl h ave been turned into a flat grid of fields mono-cropped with rice and the only waterfowl thriving here is the domestic duck. Looking at the landscape it is hard to believe th a t we are on our way to a refuge newly designated by sub-decree of the Prime Minister as the “Beung Preak Lapouv Sarus Crane and Various Other Birds Management and Conservation Area.” The seasonally inundated grasslands th a t once covered large areas of the Mekong delta were prime feeding h abita t for many migrating species, including the now-endangered Sarus Crane. In Boeung Preak Lapouv t h e land is inundated three to six months of the year, at depths reach ing 4-5 meters above sea level. During the dry season the waters recede, leaving a wet grassland th a t was formerly rich in fish, crabs, vegetation adapted to th is regime, and small mammals. An environment idea l for migrating waterfowl, cranes and storks. The natura l grasslands still scattered throughout th is area support over 2% of the global population of the Sarus Crane in the dry season, a benchmark set by conservation scientists for designation of sites important for the surviva l of a species. The designated conservation area consists of agricultural lands interspersed with grasslands in a ‘buffer zone’, and a protected ‘core area’ where no agricultura l is allowed, though commercial fish ing concessions are given in the dry season. Yet the crane must compete against a voracious human appetite for land and other natural resources. After wha t seems like many miles of canal under the hot sun we come to Banteay Sleuk village. A small group gathers to tell us about how they live near these wet grasslands. The people here are mostly Kampuchea Krom, a K hmer ethnic group tha t is often socia lly and economica lly marginalized, wh ile a few are Kinh, the majori ty ethnic group of Vietnam. All households have more rice land th an they can cultiva te, but they are not prospering. The soils are acidic, they tell us, made worse by the intensif ied digging of canals wh ich releases acidity into the water. To gain any yie ld at a ll they must borrow money to apply five bags of fertilizer and ten bottles of pesticide per hectare per season. Most families cultivate two crops a year but after repayment of the loans may be left with only enough rice for ha lf the year of the household consumption needs. Some families fa ll into debt, and have to rent or sell their lands to others. For additional income households catch rats in t h e grassland with a flash ligh t at night, and fish in the day. Now the rats are becoming scarce, as are fish in t h e buffer zone. But fish in the core area are plenty, they tell us. Later, the men in charge of protecting the conservation area tell me th a t it is villagers like those in Banteay S leuk who, together with seasonal migrants, devasta ted the natural grasslands in the past. In those days fire was the top threat. Hundreds of grass patches would be burned by local people to catch snakes, rats and sma l l animals; feathers and poisoned dead birds lined the channels; and illega l fish ing gear—small mesh nets and vertica l slit traps---was set everywhere. Burning in the dry season changed the ecology because the grass species specif ica lly adapted to seasonal inundation could not recover, and the conditions required for a thriving diversity of fish, bird and vegetation were lost. In 2003, with the support of the BirdLife Internationa l, a team of five men came together to protect the area and its species. Th is local conservation group consists of government staff from the forestry and fisheries departments, the head of a commune, and police officers from two districts. Their chief, f isheries officia l Seng Van Na, h as a gentle manner but smiles through the gaps of lost teeth th a t indicate a life of h ardsh ip. His men a lso look worn; the police have the tough wrinkled fea tures of those who have spent time toiling under the sun.

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Sarus Cranes Grus antigone sharpii are now spending less time at Boeung Prek Lapouv Sarus Crane Conservation Area because the site is drying-out earlier each season, perhaps due to water off-take. Photo: J C Eames The group started the ir conservation campaign by visiting villages to inform them of the regulations in place under the fisheries law: i.e. to convince people to stop burning the grasslands, stop snaring and poisoning birds, bury used pesticide bottles instead of throwing them into the water, and use susta inable fish ing practices. Th ey visited classrooms to teach about birds and the environment, and handed out study materia ls. They now patrol the core area and buffer zone 8-12 times per month to enforce the regulations, both by night to discourage burning of the grasslands for hunting and by day to monitor fishing practices. And they count the number and species of birds--- including the movements and feeding behaviors of the cranes. They stay in rotation at the project office, a concrete building on high stilts th at show the h igh water mark of seasonal inundation at twice my he ight. The team is empowered to confiscate equipment, and because they are police they may carry weapons. After a few years of greatly reduced disturbance in the dry season, ta ll grasses and diverse vegetation ha ve returned, along with the birds. A local species of fish th a t was thought to have been lost was recently recorded. Even the Lesser and Greater Adjutant Stork have been seen here in recent years. “In the past, the core area was bare as the ground here under the off ice” Chief Seng Van Na tells us ‘There were empty pesticide bottles and nets everywhere. But we have protected it and now it is recovered. Tha t is what I am most proud of.’ But even as the grasslands in the core zone began their slow recovery, the human pressures on the surrounding area intensified. The greatest threat to the crane and the species th a t share its habita t is land encroachmentunauthorized land cla ims in the buffer zone of the conservation area. Although the soil is poor, an influx of seasonal migrants who rent land for dry-season rice cultiva tion, combined with the anticipation of regularized land tenure systems, is leading to the large scale conversion of the buffer zone to agriculture—often without lega l backing. As a result of land speculation and the ensuing drawn-out struggle between provincial and centra l authorities, the conservation area fina lly sanctioned by the Prime Minister was reduced from the origina l recommended 10,787 ha to 8,305 ha, and the core area from 1,694 ha to only 919 ha. The team’s annual report documents several cases in wh ich they stopped bulldozers on the ground, including a recent incident th at sent a close rela tive of a h igh-ranking provincial off icia l to jail, and impounded a bulldozer. Now th at the prasak, or ministeria l sub-decree has been passed, and the conservation area f irmly established under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the conservation team can keep people out of the core area, and has a bit more clout in the struggle aga inst land encroachment. But management regulations on the buffer zone, on which the integrity of the core area, as well as the villagers, seasonal migrants, and the cranes rely, is not clear. According to the decree, rice cultiva tion and fish ing is permitted in the buffer zone, but the activity ‘must not destroy or imbalance the ecology’. The big question is, who wil l decide wh ich uses are consistent with a balanced ecology, and how? As a next step, the team will work wi t h The Babbler 24/25 – March 2008 –6–


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provincia l officia ls, local villagers, and a wide array of stakeholders to design a conservation management plan th at deta ils regulations and institutions th at will support a ‘balanced ecology’. In the creation of th is plan, it will be up to the local conservation group, and BirdLife International, to speak for the cranes. But even with a clear management plan, and the loca l conservation group in place, how susta inable will t h e implementation and enforcement of the plan be? As in many developing countries, government pay scales are not sufficient to support the families of the Local Conserva tion Group members, currently supplemented by stipends provided by BirdLife, not to mention the ir activity costs. The maintenance of the conservation are a infrastructure such as the off ice and marker buoys, and the equipment used by the team also costs money, t h is too has so far been provided by BirdLife International donor funds. But how long will donors be willing to fund these activities? How can the conservation area start pay ing for itself? Some say th at the government of Cambodia is about to come into millions with a new oil concession, and th a t part of th is money will go to shoring up personnel salaries, as well as to conservation. Another idea is to promote ecotourism; yet anoth er idea is to capture some of the funds gained from lucra tive core area fish ing concessions, which now go to t h e fisheries department, and put them back to conservation. After a ll, it is the conservation of the area, and t h e loca l conservation group activity, th a t keeps the fish catch h igh. Back in the boat, we follow canals to find t h e cranes. We climb on the bund to spot them feeding in the grasslands beyond the rice fields. We count 17 at first, and then more fly in; in the distance another group spira ls up on thermals, head and feet lower th an the ir wings each crane forming an arc like a ra ised eyebrow in the sky. The final tota l count of 43 cranes is not bad for mid-February. We continue through the canals, choke through areas of water hyacinth and rev the motor to skim over areas clogged with mud. But soon the vegetation th ickens and the bunds become sloping banks, widening into pools of water lily. Just next to us a sha l low pond harbors a Sarus Crane, a Purple Heron and an egret. The stream narrows and deepens and the grass grows higher, whipping at us as we pass; the channel bends and loops, now no longer straight. Spotted Doves begin to flush from the grass and then ducks—wild ones. The tellta le wh i te wing flanks of the Spotbill Duck bursts forth, and I see the yellow spot on the bill, green speculum and red feet. Lesser Wh istling Ducks follow, little dark ducks th a t show spots of buff-yellow on the flank, and deep rusty backs. Bitterns flush from the grass, legs dangling long from wildly awkward flapping wings. A Common K ingfisher zips turquoise diagonals across the stream while a Black-shouldered Kite perches at the top of a th in snag, the sun glowing in the red of its eye. In th e distance a flock of Pa inted Storks are moving, and then more groups of cranes. Th is then is the core area, a h aven for birds, fish, grasses and floating vegetation, and other creatures. These 919 hectares in the heart of th e Sarus Crane conservation area represents nearly all t h a t is left of what was once a vast area of seasonally- inundated grasslands in the Mekong delta. I ask Seng Van Na wha t he is happiest about in his job. He says “Wh a t makes me want to work as Chief of th is team is th a t I am proud to take part in the protection of natural resources. I see a good result so far. Wh a t we h ave lost in terms of birds and fish, in vegetation, now I see it appearing again. And in the past, I didn’t know how to ta lk about conservation. Now when I ta lk with people I can expla in to them why we want to conserve the natural environment, why they should protect na ture. Finally, the supplementa l salary a lso makes me h appy. Although it is not much, it he lps. For example, each time I visit my family in Takeo town, it costs 40,000 riel (US$10), and if family members or I are ill and need to pay medica l expenses, the supplement helps. But th is is not a big th ing; wha t is most important for me is to protect the natural environment, and th a t makes me happy. The crane is rare, and I am proud tha t they are present in th is area.” Karin Eberhardt Consultant Long-time consultant to the Indochina Programme, development and conservation specialist Karin Eberhardt recently visited Boeung Prek Lapouv Sarus Crane Conservation Area to review and consider what conservation impact BirdLife’s local conservation group activities, as funded most recently under the TMF programme have had. This article was commissioned as part of the Trail by media assessment.

Ed.

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Regional news Wintering Spoon-billed Sandpipers found in Myanmar S ightings of 84 Spoon-billed Sandpipers Eurynorhynchus pygmeus at two coasta l wetland sites in Myanmar h ave cast new light on the winter distribution of th i s Endangered species, and confirmed th at these wetlands are of international importance for their biodiversity. The known global population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper h as plunged alarmingly in the last few years to only 200-300 pairs. “The number of breeding pairs in Chukotka, S iberia, fell by 50 percent between 2006 and 2007, and no birds have been seen th is year at the ir traditional wintering sites in Bangladesh”, says Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, V ice President of the Russian Bird Conservation Union (BirdLife in Russia). The Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Team, wh ich found the birds, included staff from Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA), BirdLife International’s Partners in Russia and Tha iland, and members of ArcCona Consulting (Cambridge, UK and Kiel, Germany) and the Japan Wetlands Action Network (JAWAN). ArcCona’s analysis of satellite images, combined with the experience of previous surveys in India, Bangladesh and Tha i land, and with h istorical records of the species in Myanmar, suggested th a t potentia lly suitable habita ts existed in t h e south-western state of Arakan (Rak h ine) in the Bay of Bengal, and Martaban (Mottama) Bay.

Pushing out the boat for Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Nanth a Island a long the Arakan coast of Myanmar where 10 Spoon-billed Sandpipers were counted on 13 March, in the company of a bird trapper who had only th a t morning taken down his nets. Photo: J C Eames.

“Th irty-f ive Spoon-billed Sandpipers were counted a t one high-tide roost in Arakan, including one juvenile ringed at the breeding ground in Chukotka last summer. The team at Martaban found a tota l of 48 Spoon-billed Sandpiper, scattered over the huge mudflats of the bay but included a flock of 39 birds. The Arakan coast h as never been surveyed before, and Martaban Bay only marginally in 2003,” expla ined Christoph Zöckler of ArcCona Cambridge. "...no birds have been seen th is year at their traditional wintering sites in Bangladesh " said Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Vice President of the Russian Bird Conservation Union. “Our surveys have covered only a small section of the promising Arakan coast,” Christoph Zöckler added. “Although small-sca le reclamation of the mudfla ts for prawn ponds has been observed, the coasta l zones are largely hea lthy ecosystems, wh ich provide both crucia l h abitat for tens of thousands of arctic waders, and live li hoods for hundreds of thousands of people.”

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Htin Hla of BANCA said he was surprised and delighted by the findings. He sa id th at BANCA would work with the international community to provide a more secure future for the species. “Th is is an important piece of the jigsaw,” sa id Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Manager at BirdLife’s Asia Division. “If present trends continue, Spoon-billed Sandpiper faces extinction in the next few years. If we are to save the species, we need to identify and conserve not only its breeding sites, but its migration stopover sites and wintering grounds too.” The Arakan team also recorded Indian Skimmers, severa l pa irs of Sarus Crane and a huge number of wintering Bar- headed Geese. At Martaban, an estimated 50,000 waders are believed to include globally signif icant numbers of Broad-billed sandpiper, Lesser Sand-plover and Pallas’s Gull. "Th is work provides furth er il lustration of the global importance of Myanmar for biodiversity conservation” —Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Manager at BirdLife’s Asia Division. Simba Chan added: “The coast of Myanmar is st i l l rela tively intact, but most of the tida l area a long the east Asia flyway is under very heavy development pressure. Th is work provides further illustration of the global importance of Myanmar for biodiversity conservation.” The surveys would not have been possible without the full support of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar. The survey team logistics were managed in Myanmar by WATT (Wildbird Adventure Travel and Tours). The Main sponsor for the survey work is Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund. Additiona l contributions by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife in the UK), Asia Bird Fund of BirdLife International, the Manfred Hermsen Foundation (Bremen) and private Russian sponsors. BirdLife International press release 14 February 2008

A recent visit to the Arakan coast turned-up two large flocks of Pallas’s Gulls Larus ichthyaetus including 175 a t S ittwe on 11 March (above) Photo: J C Eames. Th is flock of 26 Indian Skimmers Rhychops albicollis includes immature birds (below). Photo: Htin Hla

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Global census reveals record count of Black-faced Spoonbill The 2008 Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor census was carried-out during the second weekend of January. In tota l a record 2,065 birds were counted in nine countries and territories in Asia. The breakdown by country and territory was as follows: Ch ina Mainland: 313 (anoth er 26 birds recorded outside the census period), Deep B a y (Hong Kong and Shenzhen): 369, Japan: 224, Macao: 50, South Korea: 28, Taiwan: 1030, Th a iland: 2, Vietnam: 49. Th is is the first time th at the 2,000 ceiling has been breached and therefore a h istorica l moment in t he conservation of the species. The global census reached 1,000 birds in 2003 and it took only another five years to double. The h igh count is believed to reflect genuine increases in the population as a result of conservation measures at a number of sites. Only 49 birds were counted in Vietnam, wh ich represents a further decrease. Loss of habita t inside Xuan Thuy National Park is believed to be the main reason. Yu Yat-tung Coordinator International Black-faced Spoonbill Census Hong Kong Bird Watching Society

Vietnam’s natural treasures revealed at Tam Dao

Dr. Alexander Monastyrskii ( left) and Mr. Mekki Sa la h at the recent launch of Birds of Tam Dao at Tam Dao. Th is book is reviewed on page 40 and Sash a is fea tured on page 46. Photo: John Pilgrim

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Trapped White-rumped Vulture released in western Siem Pang IBA, Cambodia On 9 November 2007 a juvenile Wh ite-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis was released in western Siem Pang IBA. Participating in the release ceremony was Mr. Sok Sida (ch ief of the Local Conservation Group), South Sovann (SSG member) and Sou Noun, a vil lager from Lakay villager. The vulture had been trapped and Mr. Sou Noun rescued the vulture and brought it to Mr. Sovann. Th is act a lone is a good indicator of people’s increasing awareness of the va lue of and th e need to conserve vultures following Forestry Administration/BirdLife activities at t he IBA. Meanwhile, the SSG has encouraged Soun Noun to share h is thoughts with other villagers. Pran Prich Phirun Wildife Protection Office Forestry Administration

Sou Noun (right) presents South Sovann with the rescued Whiterumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis: Photo: Sok Sida

Satellite-tagged White-rumped Vulture recovered in Vietnam In August 2007, Quang Nam Provincial Forest Protection Department notif ied BirdLife th a t a dead colourringed Wh ite-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis carrying wing-tag 8 was found at 14h00 on 13 August 2007 in a cassava fie ld near village 3, (15°25'N 108°20'E) Tien An Commune, Tien Phuoc District, Quang Nam Province, V ietnam. Tien Phuoc police reta ined the transmitter. Th is vulture was trapped on 23 April 2006 and marked with color rings (Black left and yellow right) and a yellow ting tag number 8. It was a lso fitted with one of the Pla tform telemetry transmitter (PTT) unit 29561 provided by the Roya l Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for the Cambodia vulture project a joint initiative of BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (Please see The Babbler 18). Dr. Martin Gilbert commented, “The last positions I received for th is bird were from 18 July 2006, so th is confirms tha t the lack of data f low during the intervening period has rela ted to a transmitter fa ilure rather th an earlier mortality of the bird or White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis from the transmitter becoming detached. A body weight of 2.9kg GB8 found dead in Quang Nam is exceptionally low for the species, so if accurate does indica te Province, Vietnam. Photo: H! Tr"ng th a t the bird was emacia ted. I'd need to check our capture weig h t on th is bird, to see if he was already a light-weight bird but would be surprised if a Gyps bengalensis could drop so low without dying some time earlier. Obviously it is diff icult to infer much from a single bird, but the timing is interesting. During the wet season farmers in Cambodia tend to keep their livestock closer to the ir villa ges, letting them wander more widely when fodder becomes scarcer in the dry season. With humans and vultures in direct competition for fa llen stock it wouldn't be surprising to see food ava ilability for Cambodian vultures dropping in the wet season.” Compiled by Jonathan C Eames from contributions from Nguyen Duc Tu and Dr Martin Gilbert.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Bird mortality during cold winter weather in Vietnam The start of th is year saw a record long period of cold weather in northern Vietnam, with daytime temperature during January and February consistently below ten degrees Celsius and in some cases reach ing one degree Celsius. These conditions preva iled until early March. Th is resulted in significant impacts, including around 60,000 cattle and buffa lo deaths and extensive crop damage. Near the end of February, impacts on wildli fe were a lso starting to be noticed. BirdLife is trying to compile data from observers, and so far know of t h e following species being found dead at two national parks near Hanoi (Cuc Phuong and Tam Dao): 3 Blackcrested Bulbuls Pycnonotus melanicterus, 2 Red-wh iskered Bulbuls Pycnontus jocosus, 3 Mountain Scops Owls Otis spilocephalus, 3 Blue-rumped Pittas Pitta soror, 1 Redheaded Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus, 1 Wh ite's Thrush Zoothera dauma, 2 Green-billed Malkoh a Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus, 1 Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis, and 1 Wh ite-rumped Sh ama Copsychus malabaricus. Mass butterfly deaths (and presumably thus of other less obvious insects) in Tam Dao Na tional Park, where temperatures were only 1-2 degrees Celsius at some points were reported. As most birds found were insectivores (though some are a t least in part frugivores), and were found emacia ted, the logica l conclusion has been th at they died of starvation owing to insect morta lity from prolonged cold weather. Rich ard Craik, Director of Vietnam Birding commented, "It was really worrying how few birds there were at Tam Dao and Cuc Phuong and we wondered how many birds have perished in the exceptionally cold conditions in northern Vietnam. We reckoned the temperature hovered between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius in Tam Dao and Cuc Phuong didn't feel much warmer. Mekki Sa la h of Tam Dao’s Mela Hotel said it was the coldest weather recorded in Tam Dao for over 20 years. There were very few flocks of birds to be seen at either site and we didn't record any yuhinas, flycatchers or drongos at a ll at Tam Dao. Even birds th a t usually respond well to tape like Grey Laughingthrush Garrulax maesi only responded ha lf- heartedly and weren't seen at a ll in three full days of birding. Mountain Scops Owl Otis spilocephalus at Cuc Phuong Na tional Park. Photo: Dan Brown

Th ings weren't any better in Cuc Phuong where in th e space of a couple of hours on one morning we found fresh corpses of three Mounta in Scops Owls, a Blue-rumped Pitta, a Red- headed Trogon, two Green-billed Malkoh as, a Wh ite's Thrush, a Magpie Robin and a Sh ama on the tra ils we had walked the previous day. We could only assume th a t they h ad died from the cold during the night. There were very few insects about so I guess many birds would have been struggling to find enough to eat.”

John Pilgrim Conservation Advisor BirdLife International in Indochina

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BirdLife International in Indochina

H5N1 kills Owston’s Palm Civits at Cuc Phuong National Park Bird flu has killed four endangered civets in northern Vietnam; the first time the H5N1 virus has been confirmed in the species, officia ls said Tuesday. Four Owston's palm civets Chrotogale owstoni a species th a t t h e International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists as Endangered, died between February 7 and 18 at Cuc Phuong National Park, 120 kilometres south of Hanoi, said Truong Quang Bich, director of the park. "Tests on the civets' samples showed earlier th is month th a t the animals were positive for H5N1," Bich sa id, referring to the strain of bird flu th a t can also be deadly in humans. The civets are the first mammals, oth er th an humans, to have died from bird flu in Vietnam, said Hoang Van Nam, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture's Animal Health Department. " We h aven't been able to confirm th a t the virus has mutated to easily infect mammals, but we are afraid it h as," Nam said. The H5N1 virus has been found in numerous animal species other th an birds in other countries, including ca ts, pigs and tigers. Bich said the civets, wh ich were being kept in a semi-wild enclosure at the park's conservation centre, had not been fed poultry but he suspected th at infected wild birds might h ave entered their h abita t and spread the disease. "Another civet died at the centre earlier th is month, but tests showed it was negative for H5N1," Bich sa id. "The remaining eight civets at the centre are in good condition." V ietnam lists the Owston's palm civet in its Red Book of endangered species, wh ich are illegal to trade or transport. However, an illegal trade in body parts for traditional medicine threatens the civets’ population. Civet meat, particularly if caught in the wild, is th ought to be an aphrodisiac in some regions. Fresh avianinfluenza outbreaks among birds [domestic poultry ed.] have been detected in 10 provinces in Vietnam since t h e beginning of the year, prompting local authorities to cull tens of thousands of ducks and chickens, according to the Animal Health Department. Bird flu has infected 105 people in Vietnam and killed 51 of them since it first appeared in the country in late 2003. H5N1 mainly affects poultry and wild birds but can infect humans who h ave close contact with sick fowl. Scientists fear th a t if it spreads unchecked, the disease could mutate into a form th at could be transmitted between humans, leading to a worldwide pandemic th a t could kill millions. Precise News, 11 March 2008 The information being given by various agencies reporting this event varies significantly in its quality, and in at least one case (above) the park director is quoted as suggesting that wild birds had spread the disease to the captive civets. A logical action to take would thus be to test wild birds for H5N1. Unfortunately, the national park tried to cover-up the news of the civet deaths and any testing of wild birds for H5N1, presumably fearing a drop in tourism revenues. Thankfully, the news leaked through the media and they have been pressured into allowing testing in the park. A captive Common Palm Civet has been tested already, with negative results, but further test results from the Department of Animal Health on Black-crested Bulbuls and other species have not been widely publicized. It may transpire that the captive, mostly non-native (e.g., Indian Peafowl) birds caged near the civets have H5N1. Otherwise, the leading theories are that the civets obtained the disease from either cross-contamination of food with infected poultry in the local butcher's shop, or contamination by rodents defecating in the civet enclosures. These appear to be the main potential loopholes in the strict biosecurity protocol that has been implemented by the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program since 2005.

Ed.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

The Kouprey is a good species The Kouprey Bos sauveli, an enigmatic Asian ox believed to be a hybrid — and so, unworthy of conservation efforts — is in fact a distinct species related to the Ba nteng Bos javanicus (a wild ox)1 . The conclusion contradicts earlier findings2 tha t the horned beast is a cross between the Banteng and domesticated zebu cattle. First identif ied in 1937 and last spotted in the 1980s, the Kouprey h as become a symbol for conservation in SouthEast Asia. Some experts th ink th a t it is a lready extinct. Gary Galbreath, a biologist at Ch icago’s Field Museum in Illinois who concluded th a t the Kouprey was a hybrid, told CBS News: “It is surely desirable not to waste time and money trying to locate or conserve a domestic breed gone wild.” He based th at conclusion on the observation th a t Kouprey and Banteng shared severa l sequences of mitochondria l DNA. Now, Alexandre Hassanin and Anne Ropiquet of the Na tional Na tural History Museum in Paris have sequenced three regions of mitochondria l DNA and five of non-coding nuclear DNA from seven related species, including Kouprey. The pair found tha t Kouprey have unique sequences of both mitochondria l and nuclear DNA. Their data suggest th a t Kouprey should indeed be a conservation priority — if anyone can find one. 1. Hassanin, A. & Ropiquet, A. Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/ rspb.2007.0830 (2007). 2. Galbreath, G. J., Mordacq, J. C. & Weiler, F. H. J. Zool. 270, 561–564 (2006). Ewen Callaway Nature, Vol. 449:13, September 2007 The publication of this paper, contradicting previous published findings, is a vindication of our view that the Kouprey is a good species. Without the publication of the Hassanin and Ropiquet paper it would have been so much harder for conservationists to argue for further resources for the conservation of the Kouprey.

Ed.

Black-browed Barbet Megalaima oorti is really four species In a recent paper1 Julie Feinstein, Xiaojun Yang and Shou-Hsein Li claim that the Black-browed Barbet Megalaima oorti comprise four monophyletic species. Below we reproduce the abstract from that paper. Although South-East Asia is a global biodiversity hotspot, the tempo and mode of avian diversification there has not been well studied. We investigated the history of the diversification of an endemic Asian tropical bird, t h e Black-browed Barbet Megalaima oorti, by reconstructing its intraspecif ic molecular phylogeny wi t h mitochondria l cytochromeb Gene sequences. Our molecular phy logeny suggests th a t the f ive subspecies of t h is montane barbet comprise four deeply divergent clades with strong geographica l associations: M. o. oorti in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, M. o. annamensis in Vietnam, M. o. nuchalis in Taiwan and M. o. faber/ M. o. sini in Ha inan and the southeastern Chinese mainland, respectively. Climate changes from the mid-Pliocene to t he Pleistocene may have influenced the ir diversif ication through repeated contraction and expansion of Asian tropica l forest. Moreover, our data indicate th a t th e Black-browed Barbet complex is not monophyletic: M. asiatica is embedded in our phylogeny as the sister taxon to M. o. annamensis. The present taxonomic treatment h as combined evolutionarily distinct taxa into a single paraphy letic species. Based on our molecular data and previously published plumage characters, we suggest a revision of traditional M. oorti into four monophyletic species: M. oorti, M. nuchalis, M. annamensis and M. faber. 1

Feinstein, J, Xiaojun Yang and Shou-Hsein Li (2008) Molecular systematics and historica l biogeography of the Black-browed Barbet species complex Megalaima oorti. Ibis 150: 40-49.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Is the Siamese Fireback Lophura diardi benefiting from climate change? In a recent paper1 authors Ph ilip D Round and George A Gale suggest th a t in K h ao Ya i National Park, Tha iland, the increased number of Siamese Fireback Lophura diardi records may reflect its increased abundance as a result of climate change. Long-term bird population changes in response to natural or anthropogenic factors have been relatively well documented in the temperate zone, but rarely in th e tropics, where there are few long-term data sets. The authors analyzed a 25 year sequence of records of two species of Lophura pheasants, Siamese Fireback L. diardi and Silver Pheasant L. nycthemera in Kh ao Ya i, Tha i land’s oldest national park. These data suggest th a t t h e number and proportion of detections of the lowlands-inhabiting L. diardi have increased significantly in rela tion to those of the h igher elevation inhabitant L. nycthemera. Environmenta l factors mediated by changing climate are the most plausible explanation for the changing proportions of sightings of the two species. Further work is needed to explore in deta il microhabita t selection of these birds and whether changes in micro-site conditions on the forest floor or other factors are driving the observed distribution. Long-term monitoring of t h e avifauna along an elevational gradient is a lso recommended in tandem with increased monitoring of loca l climatic conditions. Round, P. D., and Gale, G. A. 2008 Changes in the Status of Lophura Pheasants in K h ao Yai Na tional Park, Tha iland: A Response to Warming Climate? Biotropica 40(2): 225–230.

Rufous-necked and Great Hornbills confiscated in Myanmar The photograph below shows at least four Rufous-necked Hornbills Aceros nipalensis and four Great Hornbil ls Buceros bicornis in captivity at Mandalay Zoo. All of the hornbills in the photograph are clearly juveniles and were reported recovered from nests by loggers following large-scale timber operations in eastern Myanmar. They were subsequently confiscated and by staff from the Na ture and Wildlife Conservation Division. The ir current whereabouts are unknown. Rufousnecked Hornbill is currently considered to be Vulnerable by IUCN. Its dependence on large trees for feeding and nesting makes it especia lly susceptible to deforestation and h abita t degradation through logging, shif ting cultiva tion and clearance for agriculture. Furthermore, viable populations require vast tracts of forest to survive, exacerbating its susceptibility to h abita t fragmentation. These problems are compounded by widespread hunting and trapping for food, and trade in pets and casques. Trade in the species is therefore known but documented cases are rare. We th ank Douglas Hendrie of the Wildlife Conservation Society for providing th is information. Four Rufous-necked Hornbills Aceros nipalensis and four Grea t Hornbills Buceros bicornis in captivity at Mandalay Zoo. A l l are juveniles. Photo: WCS/Douglas Hendrie

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Jonathan C Eames Programme Manager BirdLife International in Indochina


BirdLife International in Indochina

New Herpetofaunal records from Vietnam Between 1997 and 2005, increased survey effort and closer examination of natural h istory collections have resulted in the description of 53 new species of amph ibians and 27 new species of reptiles from Indochina (Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam)1 . Over th a t same time period, range extensions into Indochina of 36 amph ibian species and 33 reptile species were recorded. Despite th is increase in knowledge, the diversity of the region remains imperfectly known, as new discoveries continue to be published at a rapid pace; in 2006 (up until midNovember) six species of amphibians, one species of snake, and one species of lizard were described from t h e region, along with 37 new country or provincial records. The authors provide one novel country record and 60 novel provincia l records for Vietnam. They feel th a t specific locality and voucher data is crucial to understanding patterns of diversity, so include species th a t h ave been reported in the literature, but with out reference to specific locality or voucher materia l. They comment on those records th a t h ave been reported on in only a general way, and provide novel natural h istory information for recently described species th a t are very poorly known. 1

Bain, R. H., Nguyen Quang Truong and Doan Van K ien (2007) New Herpetofaunal records from Vietnam. Herpetologica l Review, 2007, 38(1), 107–117.

Caveats on the conservation value of turtles acquired in trade Asian turtles face an extinction crisis, and so it is imperative th at systematists accurately determine species diversity in order to guide conservation strategies effectively. In a recent paper 1The authors surveyed mitochondria l and nuclear DNA (mtDNA and nuDNA) varia tion of the heavily exploited Mauremys mutica complex, a clade of Asian turtles th at contains the endangered M. mutica from Japan, Ta iwan, Ch ina and V ietnam, and the critica lly endangered Mauremys annamensis from centra l V ietnam. They discovered extensive mtDNA and nuDNA varia tion among samples th a t did not correspond to the currently recognized taxonomy. Both nuDNA and mtDNA data suggest th at M. mutica is paraphy letic with respect to M. annamensis. Surprisingly, M. annamensis exh ibits a previously unknown mtDNA structure in the form of two clades th a t are paraphyletic to M. mutica. These data revea l th a t the currently recognized taxonomy of the mutica complex does not reflect the genetic diversity of our samples. Unfortunately, many conservation-oriented captivebreeding efforts for turtles are a lso based on trade samples such as the ones studied here. These efforts include plans to breed trade-rescued individuals and release their progeny into the wild. Because there genetic survey revea ls th a t the taxonomic identity of these samples does not reflect genetic diversity, the authors ra ise serious questions about the efficacy of these programs. In order to address conservation issues and provide more accurate estimates of evolutionary lineages with in Mauremys, the authors recommend continued surveys for wild populations of the mutica complex to provide new genetic materia l and additional distributional da t a , a ttempts to extract DNA from historic museum specimens and a sh ift in conservation focus to in situ preservation of wild populations and associated habitat. 1

Fong, J. J., Parh am, J. F., S h i, H., Stuart, B. L., and Carter, R. L. 2007. A genetic survey of heavily exploited, endangered turtles: caveats on the conservation value of trade animals Animal Conservation 452 10 452–460

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Important Bird Areas News Forest cleared and plantations established within Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve, Kachin State, Myanmar (MY05) The Yuzana Company is polluting a river in the world's largest tiger reserve in northern Myanmar, sa id loca l sources. The watercourse of the Tanai River in the Hukawng Va lley in Kach in Sta te is filled with logs and roots disposed of by the company, according to natives. Locals and eyewitnesses told KNG, the heavy logs and roots have been trashed into the river after the company started to clear thousands of acres of natural forests a long both the left and right sides of Ledo Road for cultivating crops since 2006. It h as not only led to pollution but massive deforestation in the world's largest tiger reserve. "The regular ferry transport service has stopped in th e Tanai River since October last year because of trash and there has been a significant fa ll in the water level. I can see severa l damaged ferries in the river. In the past we could travel by ferries in all seasons—in the monsoons, winter and summer," a resident in Tanai Town told KNG. Currently, the company has cleared the areas at least 10 miles inside both the left and right sides of the Ledo Road which is over 50 miles long and stretches from Warazup Village to Tanai Town. The company has been using bulldozers and excavators in areas where it grows mainly sugar cane and cassava plants. The company h as temporarily constructed a new para lle l road 100 feet wide, the villagers said. Wild animals like elepha nts, deer, and foxes can no longer be seen along the road. The local people have lost their pasture leading to logs and bamboo being in short supply for building traditional houses as well as firewood, the locals added. According to locals, the company has confiscated th eir paddy fields, cemeteries and church compounds. The villagers in Nawng Mi, Warazup, Banggawk (Bangkok), S h a h tuzup (Sh aduzup), Ting Kawk, Nam Hpyak and Nawnglung-Kawng Ra are among the victims. The company has left only the small areas where villages are located. Myanmar's former capita l Rangoon-based Yuzana Company cha ired by U Htay Myint is close to the country's ruling junta vice Senior General Maung Aye. The company has bought over 200,000 acres of land in Hukawng Va lley by backing local Burmese Army bases but the company cultivated sugar cane and cassava crops in about 4,000 acres last year. Last year, the company signed a contract with the ruling junta to reconstruct t he over 100-miles long Ledo Road between Myitky ina Township and Tanai. The United Sta tes-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) declared Hukawng Valley as the world’s largest tiger reserve in 2004. However, tigers and other wild animals in the areas are seriously threatened with extinction because of heavy gold mining by the ruling junta and the Kach in Independence Organization (KIO) and extension of crop fields by the Yuzana Company, said locals. Source: Kachin News Group, 16 January 2008 We have reproduced this press release as posted on the Kachin News Group web-site with only slight editing for clarity. Although the style is somewhat sensationalist, in January I travelled from Mytkyina to Tanai and back and the above account conforms to my observations. The forest has now been almost entirely clear-felled back from the road up to 2 km along this entire length of the Ledo road, except where one wildlife corridor remains. The cleared land has been planted with sugar cane and jetropha plantations. Navigation along the Tanai River was not an issue during Janaury. The Wildlife Conservation Society has worked together with the Forest Department to have Hukaung Tiger Reserve established.

Ed.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Hkakabo Razi National Park should be connected to Hpongkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary (MY01, MY02) A recently published paper1 recommends extending Hkakabo Razi National Park, connecting it to Hpongkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary. Land cover in the northern forest complex in Myanmar was recently classified using satellite imagery (MODIS/NDVI) and field surveys carried out in 2001, 2004 and 2005. Using Landsat TM/ETM+ images from 1991 and 1999 deforestation ra tes were determined. The c. 22,000 km2 Northern Forest Complex, including the Hkakabo Razi Na tional Park in northern Kach in State, is characterized by tropical to subtropical pristine forests with low human impact. The area studied, wh ich includes land beyond t he boundaries of Hkakabo Razi Na tional Park, is of specia l conservation importance because it provides a refuge for many rare plant and animal species. Less th an 1.4% of the area is affected by humans (excluding hunting) and deforestation rates are low at less th an 0.01% annually. The authors observed severa l bird and mamma l species th a t are considered threatened elsewhere. Ba sed on their data, those of previous surveys, and the f act th a t more th an 10 new vertebrate species have been described in the region since 1999, it is likely there are sti l l undescribed vertebrate species to be discovered. The authors recommend extending the boundaries of Hka kabo Razi National Park to the south and west, connecting it to Hpongkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary, and/or adding an additional sanctuary in the Naung Mung area, to protect the vast yet still pristine ra inforest h abita ts th a t are home to many of the most important aspects of the region’s biodiversity. 1

Renner, S.W., Rappole, J.H., Leimgruber, P., Kelly, D. S, Nay Myo Shwe, Thein Aung and Myint Aung (2007) Land cover in the Northern Forest Complex of Myanmar: new insights for conservation. Oryx 41,1: 27-37.

Definitely worth joining-up: A view with in Hponkanrazi Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: J C Eames

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Monitoring of Large Waterbirds at Prek Toal, Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia 2001 – 2007 (KH003) The Tonle Sap Lake water bird colonies, discovered in the mid-1990s at Prek Toal, are of global conservation importance. The colonies include the largest, and in some cases the only, breeding populations in South-East Asia of seven species of conservation significance: Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala, Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilus javanicus, Greater Adjutant Leptoptilus dubius, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus and Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster. The birds are reliant on the unique Tonle Sap ecosystem, the largest freshwater lake in South-East Asia and one of the world’s most productive fisheries. When first discovered the colonies were heavily threatened by annual harvesting of the eggs and chicks by nearby villagers, mainly for trade and local consumption. This led to the establishment in early 2001 of the Prek Toal conservation team. Beginning with the initia l four and expanding to the current 28 rangers, this team has conducted annual monitoring and protection of the breeding bird colonies since 2001. The team has been remarkably effective: collection incidences declined in 2002 and 2003, and since 2004 all species have bred successfully. The rangers’ skills at bird identification and counting led to the development of a simple counting system based on weekly observations of all nesting birds visible from the observation platforms. By 2003 it became clear that the colonies were being effectively protected and possible increases in the population of one species, the Oriental Darter, were observed. In order to measure these population changes more accurately a monitoring program was developed and implemented over four years, from 2004-2007. The monitoring program aimed to provide scientifically robust estimates of the bird populations each year, both to measure individual trends and to provide accurate information on the total number of birds present. If the annual egg and chick collection were the major threat to the target species, then increases would be expected at a rate consistent with the species’ ecology. Conversely, constant or declining populations would be indicative of unknown threats elsewhere in the species’ range. Under the program design, the platform count data recorded by the rangers is taken as a random representative sample of the species present and their densities. These are then extrapolated across the entire area known to be occupied by each species, based on detailed tree mapping by boat surveys during the wet season and aerial surveys at the peak colony breeding time. High-resolution overlapping digital photographs taken during these aerial surveys allow accurate determination of the total colony extent and the number of trees occupied. The monitoring program has fulfilled its original objectives and has provided robust scientific estimates of the populations of three species (Spot-billed Pelican, Painted Stork and Asian Openbill) since 2004, and for Orienta l Darter since 2001. In addition, partial population estimates for three further species (Greater and Lesser Adjutant and Milky Stork) have been possible, based on the platform counts. Estimates are based on the number of breeding pairs. Species Asian Openbill Greater Adjutant Lesser Adjutant Milky Stork Oriental Darter Painted Stork Spot-billed Pelican

Number of breeding pairs (confidence Interval) 2001 2004 959 (611-1,307) 56 (49-63) 158 (127-189) 2 241 (118-364) 1,125 (819-1,431) 1,707 (1,523-1,890) 1,117 (977-1,258)

Notes 2007 7,682 (6,286-9,078) 77 (65-89) 253 (222-284) 10 (6-14) 4,053 (3,463-4,643) 3,121 (2,854-3,388) 2,592 (2,301-2,883)

Complete estimate Partial estimate Partial estimate Partial estimate Complete estimate Complete estimate Complete estimate

The results indicate that the Prek Toal conservation program has been extremely effective. All species have recorded significant increases, with populations in some cases as much as 20 times greater than when the program was initiated. Some species, such as Oriental Darter and Painted Stork, are now colonizing new nesting sites in Cambodia and Thailand. Similar range expansions might be expected for other species (e.g. Spot-billed Pelican) in future years. The colonies do not appear to be currently limited at Prek Toal, either for food or for nesting locations, although this may change as the populations continue to increase. The success of the Prek Toal program has contributed to recent proposals for revisions of species status, such as down listing of Spot-billed Pelican based on the observed population recoveries. The Prek Toal monitoring program is time-consuming and requires significant technical resources. Future monitoring may use a number of indicators, which can be expected to correlate with changes in total population size, and will be simpler to collect. Further research is required to investigate breeding ecology and to monitor species migrations to feeding sites. Little is currently known about how species disperse from Prek Toal and how populations interchange with those breeding at other sites (such as nesting Adjutant storks in northern Cambodia). Over the next twenty years significant changes in the hydrological and ecosystem processes of the Tonle Sap are expected as a consequence of development The Babbler 24/25 – March 2008 – 19 –


BirdLife International in Indochina

initiatives upstream in the Mekong River. Recent modeling suggests that these may substantially alter water levels and sedimentation rates, which may see a decline in the distribution and abundance of the emergent trees that the birds use as nesting habitat. Monitoring the impact of these changes on the birds’ habitat will be a significant challenge in future years. Hannah O’Kelly, Tom Clements, Sun Visal Wildlife Conservation Society, Cambodia Programme We here reproduce the Executive Summary from the report, Monitoring of Large Waterbirds at Prek Toal, Tonle Sap Great Lake 2001 – 2007 by Hannah O’Kelly, Tom Clements and Sun Visal. This report was published by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Cambodia Programmme in 2007. Ed.

Cambodian national parks now open for business Some of Indochina’s last protected areas are being opened to mineral extraction with few protections in place. Cambodia’s once-abundant natural resources, whose timber reserves already were stripped to fund its disastrous civil war, are ripe for more exploitation. Saddled with a weak and often corrupt government, it is now in danger of seeing its mineral rights looted, as even officials charged with protecting the environment say the time has come to sacrifice some protected areas to mining development. Environment Minister Mok Mareth said in a recent interview that a balance must be struck between conservation and development, hinting that the balance would fall on the side of development. "There are too many people worried that it may destroy all the resources, all biodiversity, all ecosystems," he said. "Of course, it's right. It destroys some part, not all. We have to understand that." In considering exploitation, the ministry obtains binding guarantees that companies will respect the environment and not harm indigenous rights, he claimed, adding that Cambodia was in the process of changing from "100 percent conservation" to a system that can accommodate development. "We're in the phase of what we call transition," he said. The issue of how that transition is handled came to the fore in recent weeks when, through a little-known Australian firm, Indochine Resources, two flamboyant Australians won the right to explore for unnamed minerals in 180,000 hectares, or 54 percent, of Cambodia’s Asean-heritage listed Virachey National Park. The concession itself was as big as 254,600 hectares. Both the Cambodian Environment Ministry and the World Bank, which has funded the management and conservation of the park to the tune of nearly $5 million, were caught by surprise. The two are geologist Jeremy Snaith and David Evans, who in April became known across Australia as the “bananas in pajamas” after their nude antics aboard a Sydney-Abu Dhabi flight and subsequent arrest for sexual harassment and drunkenness forced them out of their company, Jupiter Mines. That an area so large and so sensitive was now in the hands of men ensnared by a drunken slapstick scandal gave pause to some. The World Bank, for one, announced it was seeking clarification from the government. “[W]e continue to encourage the government of Cambodia to make good choices when they pick business partners… to ensure that their partners are committed to socially and environmentally responsible development,” a World Bank official wrote in an email. A rumor in Phnom Penh held that a more reputable Australian mining firm also seeking the concession had been beaten out by Indochine Resources. The case is only one chapter in an unfolding story in Cambodia, which devotes a surprisingly large share of its territory to conservation. According to a 1992 review by the UN's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambodia's set-aside level of 26.3 percent was far higher than the land reserved for conservation in Thailand (16.3 percent), the US (11 percent), Indonesia (10 percent) or Australia (5.3 percent). The country’s 32 environmentally protected areas, such as Virachey National Park, cover more than a quarter of its landmass. These areas also contain gold, copper, chromium and bauxite, creating the potential for Cambodia’s regulators to see dollar signs without foreseeing desolation. Critics question whether Cambodia has the means, or even the desire, to control how and where mines are dug, or to determine whether the environmental damage they cause is acceptable. Global Witness, the environmental watchdog, has contended that the country’s natural resources until now have formed little more than a cash cow for the country’s elite and that exploiting Cambodia's resources in the absence of the rule of law will not necessarily lead to development or increased prosperity. For their part, government officials have in recent months repeatedly and rather ominously from the point of view of environmentalists, said that riches to help lift Cambodia out of poverty should not The Babbler 24/25 – March 2008 – 20 –


BirdLife International in Indochina

be beyond reach simply because they lie buried beneath the turf of an endangered species. Environment chief Mok Mareth maintained that the 47,845 square kilometers of land devoted to protecting the environment are hardly sacrosanct. Critics who feel his ministry is weak and routinely shoved aside in favor of more muscular industria l interests simply do not understand, he added. "When we developed that," Mok Mareth said of Cambodia's system of protected areas, first created in 1993 around the time that the UN mandate period ended, "we didn't know all the potential of our natural resources, our richness. So we need to have the exploration.” Cambodia is hardly different from much of the rest of the world, where many protected areas are also routinely open to mining. Authorities permit mining in about 78 percent of South Australia's 332 protected areas, according to the state's regional government. In Cambodia, however, the matter comes down to a question of management. At a 2004 workshop, Environment Ministry officials and conservation NGOs found that mining was already occurring in nine protected areas and threatening 13 of them. Since then, the government has lifted a prohibition on mining in protected areas and has invited companies like Indochine Resources as well as BHP Billiton, Southern Mining Company and Oxiana Ltd to explore for minerals sometimes in parts of sanctuaries believed to be crucial for protecting biodiversity. All four companies have promised to be good to Cambodia's environment. But such deals are being struck even though many of the country's protected areas are under-funded, understaffed, lack comprehensive management plans and most importantly, do not have zoning to protect their most environmentally sensitive areas. These problems, outlined by the 2004 workshop, persist to this day, NGOs say. Seng Teak, country director for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said last week that certain core zones must be protected from mining, as the viability of other ecosystems depends on them. It's called a core zone, he said, "You can't touch that area from a biodiversity point of view." Mok Mareth said, however, that a consensus with other ministries had emerged that even future core zones were not necessarily off limits for exploitation. "We got already the reaction, even from the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Agriculture and others," he said. "They also raised the concern: If I accept conservation of this area, a core zone, if we can find a billion dollars for the mining there, how can we exploit these millions of dollars in this area?” “We did not define any core zones to date," he added. However, Seng Teak said Cambodia is simply not yet ready to deliver its protected areas into the hands of mining companies. "I think it may be too early to bring the companies in to invest in the protected areas. It has to have clear zoning," he said. "The right to use the resources should be based on a clear land use plan first." In weighing development against conservation, the government is poised to make a fateful decision, Seng Teak said. "The crossroads is balancing the two, because the government sees economic development as a priority and conservation second," he said. "It's a challenge to make that decision." Douglas Gillison www.AsiaSeninal.com 21 September 2007

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Preah Monivong Bokor National Park leased to developers (KH031) The Government of Cambodia h as recently signed a 99 year lease with a priva te developer for Phrea h Monivong National Park. The contract was made in April 2007 between Roya l Government of Cambodia, and the Sokh a Hotel Company. In the agreement the government aims “to develop Prea h Monivong Bokor National Park to become a tourist site for the goal of preserving, strengthening and protecting environmental nature, providing job opportunities, and creating opportunity in developing quality and effective tourism. The proposed investment and development will include the construction of asph a lt road from the mountain foot to the top as first priority. The site lease, “refers to the entire site of Prea h Monivong Bokor National Park which covers an area of 140,000 ha through Royal Decree dated November 1, 1993.” The contract goes on to list eleven specific projects comprising; 1.

Construction of aspha lt road from mountain foot to top

2.

Construction of roads on mountain top

3.

Construction of sewage system

4.

Construction of water and electricity supply station

5.

Construction of international standard hotel and casino

6.

Construction of motel, restaurant, club, villa , golf club, resort and park

7.

Construction of emergency hospita l

8.

Creation of fruit tree, vegetable and flower farms and other crops

9.

Construction of water distiller system

10. Together with other constructions and business rela ted th at could be developed according to economic and market growth and 11. Request for the creation of Bokor national park town Wit h in the terms of the agreement the government wil l reta in mineral extraction rights and the Sokh a Hote l Company reta ins logging rights. A minimum lease fee of “th irty thousand US dollars per annum and then t h e fee will be increased by ten thousand US dollars in every 5 years until the termination of the contract” is specified but “From the 1st year to the 20th years, the company is exempted from paying the lease fee.” BirdLife views the development with concerned interest. We expect that any development inside or impacting any protected area would conform in every case to both the letter and spirit of national protected areas law. We note that several of the above listed projects are totally incompatible with national park management objectives and we believe they should not go ahead within the national park. We would expect environmental impact assessments to be conducted for all project developments proposed and these to be conducted openly and fairly with due consultation of all stakeholders. BirdLife recognizes the potential value of tourism development in relation to promoting sustainable management of protected areas. One major benefit of which is using tourism revenues to meet the management costs of the protected area. It is not clear from this lease agreement, however that provision for this has been made in this case. Ed.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Rangers arrest nine poachers in Bi Doup Nui Ba and Chu Yang Sin National Parks (VN036, VN037 and VN030) As part of a recent three day patrol a team of 16 rangers from Bi Doup Nui Ba and Chu Yang Sin National Parks arrested nine of 13 hunters at the ir camp at 08h30 on 14 February 2008. In the camp the rangers found three Sambar Cervus unicolor, a Large-antlered Muntjac, Muntiacus vuquangensis, two Wild Pigs Sus scrofa, two Common Palm Civits Paradoxurus! hermaphroditus, a Douc Langur Pygathrix sp. and a Macaque Macacca sp. The rangers also found a range of hunting equipment including knifes, four guns and 44 rounds of ammunition. A torch and telescopic sight were found mounted on one of the confiscated rifles. Following the ir arrest the hunters were taken to Lat town, Lac Duong District, Lam Dong Province. Mr. Nguyen Van Hung, head of the Forest Protection Department of Bi Doup Nui Ba Na tional Park reported th a t the poachers worked mostly at night and spent the day fish ing and finding animal tracks in the forest. Th is party of poachers comprised ethnic minority Kho from Lac Duong District and other hunters from Xuan Tho commune, a suburb Da Lat City. Nghiem Xuan Dung, 44, was reported the head of th is hunting group. Nguyen Hang Tinh, Tuoi Tre Newspaper, 17 February 2008 Whilst the state controlled Vietnamese media never misses a chance to point-out that many infractions of forest law in the central highlands involve ethnic minorities, these actions must be seen in the context of the demand from the wider Kinh dominated society for the timber and wildlife procured on their behalf.

Ed.

Chu Yang Sin National Park is no place for vegetarians. Photo: Tuoi Tre Newspaper

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Government of Cambodia declares Sarus Crane Reserve at Boeung Prek Lapouv (KH039) One of the most globally important sites for the South-east Asian race sharpii of Sarus Crane Grus antigone – the fastest declining of the three races of this Vulnerable species – has been declared a reserve after several years of active lobbying by the Wildlife Protection Office of the Forestry Administration in partnership with BirdLife International in Indochina. The Council of Ministers of the Government of Cambodia has now approved a proposal to protect nearly 9,000 hectares, comprising 919 ha of core area and 8,305 ha in total, of seasonally inundated grassland in Takeo Province in south-eastern Cambodia. The process to complete the notification of the Boeung Prek Lapouv Sarus Crane Conservation Area was recently completed upon signing of a Prime Ministerial Decree by His Excellency Prime Minister Hun Sen. The site is used by up to 300 Sarus Cranes, nearly 40% the global population of the race sharpii. The Sarus Cranes arrive in December and remain until February when the site dries-up. There are only three other sites regularly used by this sub-species during the non-breeding season. Of these two are in Cambodia and the third in Vietnam. All three of these sites are under conservation management but only two are currently protected by law. BirdLife and the Forestry Administration are now working to have the third Cambodian site at Kampong Trach, also protected by law. “BirdLife has been working with our colleagues at the Forestry Administration to establish Boeung Prek Lapouv as a protected area for about five years,” said Jonathan C. Eames, Programme Manager for BirdLife International in Indochina. “This is the first protected area in Cambodia that we have proposed and succeeded in having the government gazette. We are proud of this achievement.” Said Bou Vorsak, Acting Programme Manager for the Cambodia Programme. The Forestry Administration (FA) is part of Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the work which has resulted in the “gazettement” of the IBA as a protected area was led by Mr. Seng Kim Hout, who was seconded to BirdLife from the Wildlife Protection Office of the FA, and his colleague Mr. Men Phymean, Director of the Wildlife Protection Office. Seng Kim Hout is also first author of the Directory of Important Bird Areas in Cambodia: key sites for conservation, where a fuller description of Boeung Prek Lapouv IBA is available. Jonathan Eames said that the proposal had been through much iteration, and the final area approved was smaller than BirdLife had lobbied for. “However, the site is located in one of the poorest and most densely populated parts of Cambodia. It is a tribute to the Cambodian Government that they put conservation first over allocation of the land to rice cultivation, which they could easily have done.” Bou Vorsak, Cambodia Acting Programme Manager for BirdLife’s work in Cambodia, said this was a landmark decision for BirdLife. “This is the first protected area in Cambodia that we have proposed and succeeded in having the government gazette. We are proud of this achievement.” Since 2003, Boeung Prek Lapouv has been patrolled by a Local Conservation Group established by BirdLife, which has successfully prevented incursions by dry season rice farmers and hunters (particularly from Vietnam as the sites lied very close to the international frontier), as well as raising awareness of the importance of the area’s biodiversity, and the benefits of sustainable use, among the local communities. Other threats faced by the site include water draw-off for rice irrigation and the spread of the invasive plant Mimosa pigra. BirdLife International press release, 5 November 2007

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Rarest of the rare

Spoon-billed Sandpiper facing extinction? Populations of one of the world’s strangest birds have crashed over the last decade, and surveys this summer (2007) of its breeding grounds in the remote Russian province of Chukotka suggest that the situation is now critical. The charismatic, and rather aptly named, Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, is now worryingly close to becoming extinct. With only 200-300 pairs left, conservationists are calling for urgent help to tackle the decline. “We’ve seen a 70% drop in the number of breeding pairs at some sites over the last couple of years. If this decline continues, these amazing birds won’t be around for much longer,” says Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Vice President of the Russian Bird Conservation Union (BirdLife in Russia). The reasons for these losses are complex, involving changes to habitat during migration and loss of breeding areas. What is clear is that nest predation by foxes and disturbance by people and dogs could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the few birds left. “Action to safeguard the remaining breeding pairs needs to be taken now for there to be any chance of saving them. We are planning to put wardens in place at these critical sites. Once they are protected and the birds are successfully fledging young, we can get on with the task of trying to save areas that they use whilst on migration,” Evgeny adds. Spoon-billed Sandpipers’ spoon-shaped bill is still something of a mystery, the exact use for which is still unknown. They breed during June–July in a small strip of coastal Arctic tundra in Chukotka, north-east Russia. They then migrate thousands of kilometres to winter along coasts in South and South-East Asia. Spoon-billed Sandpipers are one of several species to depend on the rich tidal coasts of the Yellow Sea in East Asia, where they stop to refuel on their way to and from their breeding grounds. “Coastal reclamation in South Korea is currently destroying over 40,000 ha of habitat; coastal habitats are being converted into saltpans and shrimp farms in Bangladesh and Chinese coasts have been rapidly developed in recent years,” says Christoph Zöckler, international coordinator of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Action Plan, “They are just running out of places to stop and feed on migration.” What seems certain is that if these changes continue there will soon be no place left for Spoon-billed Sandpipers. “The recent declines have shocked those concerned about the species, but with investment and the dedication of those involved we can still save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.” says Richard Grimmett, BirdLife’s Global Conservation Manager. BirdLife International has launched the Preventing Extinctions initiative to try and turn the tide for Spoon-billed Sandpiper and species like it, and is looking for companies, institutions and individuals to step up and provide funding by becoming BirdLife Species Champions. With the right conservation action plan in place it is possible to save a species. It has been done before, but it takes hard work and hard cash but aren’t we all the better for knowing that a bird with a spoon for a bill exists out there, somewhere? BirdLife International press release, 12 October 2007

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Project updates Conserving Bengal Floricans and improving rural livelihoods around the Tonle Sap, the world’s largest floodplain lake, Cambodia Th is report covers the period January-December 2007, which was the first year of th is two-year project. Each section begins by comparing actual implementation to the original timetable in the project proposal. Overa l l , the project is on track for all objectives, with some sligh tly behind and some slightly a head of schedule. Study on the values of grasslands to local livelihoods and the impacts of dry season rice systems on local livelihoods now completed As part of a dual component sub-project named “Community based livelihood improvement project in/near by the IFBAs” the Centre d’Etude et de Développement Agricole Cambodgien (CEDAC) conducted a community livelih ood study, the basis of which was a cost-benefit analysis of the traditional use of grasslands (i.e. wet season (deepwater) and recession rice cultivation, vegetable cropping, plant collection, livestock grazing, and fisheries) and the more recent land use being extolled by companies and certain members of the local government, namely, dry-season rice cultivation. CEDAC conducted in-depth studies of the economic benefits local communities derive from grasslands in 8 villages near by IFBAs. Detailed information on the economic benefit from dry season rice cultivation was also obtained from several dam owners that h ave been growing rice in the floodplain for over a year. The second component of this project, namely agricultural extension, will be discussed under point 5, below.

W h ich way to the nearest IFBA? Male Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis Photo: J C Eames In order to build further support for the IFBAs provincial workshops to feed back the results of the socioeconomic research h ave been planned but have been delayed due to extensive analysis of study results. As soon as the above report h as been finalized and the results can be confidently presented to government officia ls and circulated in the national media, presentations will be given to the provincial IFBA commissions. As the study h igh ligh ts the benefits of grasslands to the local communities it is hoped th a t th is will further persuade t he government to support the project and other community based natural resource management initiatives in th is area. The report will be widely disseminated and the national media encouraged to use some of the key findings. Some site visits by key decision makers ha ve been conducted to the IFBAs a lready, others are to be he ld in dry season of the second year. Government officia ls including a deputy provincia l governor visited Ch ikreng IFBA, S iem Reap in May to take part in placing the officia l signposts. The event was featured in the national press. Visits were a lso subsequently organized for government officia ls in Kampong Thom to witness the establishment of signposts along boundaries of IFBAs there. Further visits to IFBAs will be conducted in th is dry season, between February-May 2008. Although more visits to the IFBAs were intended in 2007 the extensive flooding and diff iculties in accessing the IFBAs made the project decide to postpone visits till la ter in the dry season in 2008. As part of the assessment of community support for dry season rice proposal in Stoung, members of the Kampong Thom provincia l administra tion conducted a survey in September among villagers in Stoung district, together with the project team. The Babbler 24/25 – March 2008 – 26 –


BirdLife International in Indochina

Awareness-raising activities for local communities on schedule IFBA extension meetings were held throughout January-May in target communes relevant to the IFBAs and people were invited to attend from the villages, especia lly from those identified as major users. Extension activities involved expla ining to communities about IFBAs and the Provincial Declaration (Deika) as well as other relevant laws, such as the Land, Forest and Fish eries laws. A large colour reference map of the IFBAs was given to district governors and Commune Council members th at attended and copies of the Deika with an a ttached map of the IFBAs were distributed to everyone. Discussion was encouraged and questions from the a ttendees were answered by the project team. The extension program covered 14 communes, 61 villages and over 1,235 people. The extension reached a ll communes with villages th a t are known to use the IFBAs. From June – December further extension on IFBAs was integrated into CEDAC farmer tra ining meetings, wh ile the first round of wider extension activities conducted by the project in 2007 was being evaluated. Following the first round of extension, a questionnaire survey was designed to eva luate the effectiveness of extension work carried out and to assess wha t sort of follow-up may be needed. The survey was conducted around Baray, Stoung and Chikreng IFBAs in four communes. Th is review found th a t although many people had heard about the IFBAs, understanding of the exact location and the objectives of IFBAs stil l needed improvement, as the extension information had not reached everyone. In future the extension activities will be conducted a t a village instead of commune level, concentrating on target villages th a t are known to use the IFBAs and encouraging a large attendance at each village meeting so tha t the project can reach people directly. We wil l a lso go into greater deta il th an before about the location and objectives of the IFBAs. Other topics are about t h e Bengal Florican nest protection programme laws (especially fisheries and wildlife laws), the endangered status of certa in species globally, and the importance of tak ing care of our environment. Alt hough the revised extension programme will be largely implemented starting in the first quarter of 2008, some emergency extension was done in December in an area where hunting activities were seen to increase signif icantly over a short period of time. Five thousand exercise books have been produced th a t h ave a picture of Bengal Florican on the cover and conta in information about the IFBAs for handing out to children and young adults in next year’s extension meetings. Five IFBAs now exist in law under Provincial Declarations (deikas) The four in Kampong Thom province were declared in August 2006; the one in Siem Reap Province was declared shortly after the start of the Fondation Ensemble funding, in January 2007. BirdLife, WCS and the Wildli fe Protection Office continue to have a very close and effective working rela tionship and th is h as been extended to involve the key line agencies at provincial level (notably the Departments of Agriculture and of Fisheries, and loca l offices of the Forestry Administration). In Siem Reap Province much progress has been made in the establishment of an IFBA commission and executive secretaria t. The composition and function of the executive secretariat as executing agency of the Deika has now been formally approved. Four commission meetings have been held on various topics and severa l key decisions h ave been made. Signposts have been placed at a ll major access points into the IFBA. Most importantly, the commission successfully asserted its authority and stopped a major development project by a private investor th a t would have damaged a large part of the IFBA – a landmark decision and one th a t sets a precedent for other similar threats in th is province. The decision was featured in a national Khmer-language newspaper article. In Kampong Thom Province severa l dams, irrigation ch annels and tree plantations have been built, marked out or had contracts signed with in the IFBAs after they were declared. Resolving th is has become the focus for much of the efforts of the project team. Da ta on the extent and legality of existing land concessions/developments have been compiled and reported to the authorities, first to the IFBA provincia l commission and subsequently to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). Soon after receiving the report from the project the Minister held a meeting with provincia l governors and in th is meeting he ordered the governors to immediately suspend all the activities of companies th at h ad been awarded economic land concessions by the provinces. He ha s since ordered an investigation into dam construction throughout the floodpla in of the Tonle Sap Lake, wh ich includes the IFBA areas. Investigative visits have a lready been made. The current standpoint of the Fisheries Administration th a t is leading the investigation (as the f loodpla in fa lls under their jurisdiction) is th a t all the dams must be destroyed, as they are complete ly il legal. Th is is encouraging news for the IFBA project and will hopefully result in a clear policy sta tement th a t removes the root cause of the threats - illegal issuance of land concessions. The IFBA commission in Kampong Thom now operational First a meeting was held resulting in the formal approval for the placing of signposts at entrance points to t h e IFBAs. Thereafter the deputy-governor cha ired two meetings. The first was to discuss the proposal made by the Stoung district governor to build a dam and grow dry season rice inside Stoung IFBA. The district governor The Babbler 24/25 – March 2008 – 27 –


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asked the IFBA commission to consider th is proposal and conduct a study on the community support for th is idea. The second meeting was a presentation of the results of the survey th a t showed th a t most local people opposed the construction of a dam in the grasslands. So far th is looks encouraging as it reflects a change in a ttitude by the Kampong Thom government whereby they are now treating the commission as a legitimate decision making body th a t should be consulted on planned activities th at might seriously affect the IFBAs. Our seven months progress report was h anded over to IFBA commission members, as will be our first year’s progress report, the report on economic benefits from grasslands and the 2007 status report on the Tonle S ap Bengal Florican population. We have also started ta lks with our partners in the Forestry Administration to prepare a strategy for finally requesting a h igher level of designated status for the IFBAs, which involves consulta tions with government agencies (especia ll y the Fisheries Administration), district governments, commune councils and village chiefs and eventually with the provincia l governors of Kampong Thom and Siem Reap before submitting a proposal to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. An officia l patrol team was established in Kampong Thom and has been active since February across all four IFBAs there. The provincia l IFBA commission has approved the establishment of a second team for Siem Reap. We are currently looking for a suitable patrol leader and in the interim, are conducting observation patrols there by a team without the power to make arrests. To conduct patrols effectively joint patrols are conducted by a Forestry Administration officer, a policeman and a community counterpart (a different person for each IFBA). The forestry officer has authority in rela tion to natural resource management, such making case reports and prosecution under the Forestry, Fisheries and Land laws wh ile the policeman provides backup and can make arrests. The village counterpart provides local site knowledge and forms a bridge to local communities. The leader of the existing patrol team has received training in planning patrols, data collection and reporting according to the project’s requirements. The information collected on patrol is vita l to mainta ining the project’s information database on human use, dam developments and wildlife observations. Each month the database is updated and new maps are produced for the patrol team to take to the fie ld. The results are also used to present to the provincia l commissions, especia lly those perta ining to illegal developments inside the IFBAs. Once t h e new patrol team has been formed both teams will undergo further tra ining in the above as well as in establish ing information networks among local people, so th at they can more effectively remain aware of any il legal activities occurring in the IFBAs. The patrol teams have dealt directly with four cases of illegal hunting (especia lly setting of bird traps and including one case of a florican being caught by using a f ish ing net) and three cases of illegal f ish ing practices (electro-f ish ing). They lack the power to directly stop dam developments inside the IFBAs themselves and are required to report these to the Provincia l Commissions for action. As noted above, th is has been more immediate ly effective in Siem Reap Province than in Kompong Thom. The establishment and training of community consultation committees ongoing A strategy for the formation of a network of community volunteers with linkages to the ir commune councils and to the provincial IFBA commissions has been developed. Volunteers are invited to cooperate with the project in protecting the Bengal Florican and ensuring the grasslands are used susta inably. An initia l selection of twelve volunteers has been made in three communes (Prolay, Lveang Russei, Spean Tnaot) bordering Stoung and Ch ikreng IFBAs. Th is will be expanded in 2008 to include the other IFBAs. Tra ining will be “on the job” and gradual at first with the project involving participants more and more according to the ir willingness to participate. Volunteers will be a part of a ll vill age consultations and other meetings and will pla y an important role in facilita ting the participatory zoning process, wh ich is expected to lead naturally into t h e formation of formal committees to cooperate on management of the zones. It is expected th a t the volunteers wil l be key members of these committees and will eventually become the representatives and guardians of the ir IFBA with in the community. On-the-ground demarcation of IFBA boundaries underway A tota l of 53 signposts had been put along boundaries of IFBAs where main access roads lead into the grasslands. The number of signposts per IFBA depends to some degree on size of the IFBA, but a lso on the level of use of th a t IFBA by people and the resultant number of access roads. At each site a ll relevant local authorities were informed of the meaning of the posts and consulted over locations. The signposts are crucial in informing people th a t they are entering an IFBA. Specifica lly they conta in the name and size of the IFBA and a warning to companies not to build new or extend old dams with in the IFBA . The majority of the signs have been broken since they were put in place. It is not clear who broke them or why but it is suspected th at it was the proponents of new dam projects. It is planned to erect new signs th a t are more

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diff icult to damage, check them frequently on patrols and increase awareness of their role as part of t h e extension programme. The process for the participatory zoning of IFBAs, involving local communities was initia ted early, but actua l zoning to take place in at least two IFBAs in year 2. Mapping of land cover has already been done and is updated regularly through field surveys and satellite image analysis. As noted under Sections 2.3 and 3.3 an extension programme has been implemented th at covers laws concerning natural resource use in the IFBAs and village volunteers have been identified who can assist in th is process. Zoning consulta tions will commence in the first or second quarter of 2008 and will form the basis of preparing management plans and registering use rights. Demonstration of livelihood improvement activities In relation to the demonstration of liveli hood improvement activities tra ining in SRI techniques in selected villages slightly delayed, but is now underway. Th is started in June 2007, implemented by CEDAC under the ir sub-project named “Community based livelihood improvement project in/near by the IFBAs”. It focuses on three villages th a t use the Stoung IFBA in Prolay commune in Stoung district, Kampong Thom and four villages th a t use the Ch ikreng IFBA in Spean Tnaot and Lveang Russei communes in Chikreng district, S iem Reap. Th is is an increase of the number of target villages from four to seven due to an increase in the amount of its own resources th a t CEDAC is able to contribute. The main reasons for the IFBA project to get involved in improving agricultural systems in nearby villages are: 1) To allow villagers to produce more from the ir existing farmland using tested techniques in organic farming, which will hopefully lead to increased welfare, wh ile fostering ecological awareness and minimizing t h e impact of farming on the environment as well as reducing the immediate pressure on land 2) To cooperate with people from key villages and foster relationships with them Trainings have been given to selected farmers from target villages around IFBAs on: low input rice intensification techniques (SRI), ecologica l ch icken ra ising, composting, home gardening and the operation of savings groups as credit providers. Commune and village introductory meetings were held in 10 villages wit h 631 people attending. A selection of 63 farmers (including 26 women) was then made from the group of those interested in receiving training from CEDAC. The programme was la ter expanded to include additi onal tra inings in each of the villages, whereby a further 62 farmers participated (54 women). Currently 28 farmers are tria ling SRI, 11 have adopted ecological ch icken raising techniques, 18 farmers are about to bui ld composting sites and 80 people h ave joined five savings groups. The tra inings are still ongoing. In order to motiva te the interest of both CEDAC tra ined and un-tra ined farmers, farmer exchange visits have been organized. Four exchange visits brought 85 farmers living near IFBAs to areas where the SRI techniques have a lready been applied so th a t they could hear from others about SRI, see how they are implementing these techniques, and learn about the results other farmers h ave gotten. Two intra village exchange visits have a lso been organized whereby a tota l of 33 un-tra ined farmers came to take a look at a “model” farm from someone who is implementing the recently learnt SRI techniques. See deta ils in the appended CEDAC progress report. Further exchange visits will occur in the second year. Approval of large scale commercial concessions within IFBAs The project has worked hard to prevent th is and has by all appearances succeeded in Siem Reap and is making progress in Kampong Thom against a much h igher level of threat th an was evident in 2006. Considerable pressure has been put on the Kampong Thom governor and the issuance of economic concessions in th is province is under intense scrutiny by national government agencies. It is therefore expected th a t the second year of t h e project will see a significant reduction, if not a complete ha lt, on new concessions being awarded in floodpla in grasslands and with in IFBAs in particular. The key diff iculty h as been the slow pace of action in Kampong Thom Province to dea l with large-scale illegal land encroachment. This is a politica lly diff icult issue with powerful people involved on all sides. The main approach of the project has been one of direct coopera tion with the provincia l authorities, building trust and rela tionships, ra ising awareness of the legal, livelih ood and conservation issues, presenting regular updates on issues observed in the field, and making appropria te officia l requests for action. In th is province th a t approach h as not yet borne fruit. A second approach h as been to request action at Ministeria l level, wh ich has been done, and th is now appears to be increasing the pressure on the provincia l authorities to enforce the law. A th ird approach h as been to quantify traditional liveli hood va lues; and these data will be widely disseminated soon strengthening the arguments we make for grassland conservation.

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Outlook for 2008 The outlook in Siem Reap Province is positive and we expect to move a head rapidly with establishment of community consultation committees, participatory zoning etc. In Kampong Thom we expect progress to improve again soon and around Stoung IFBA we will move ahead quickly with community work. At the other three IFBAs the focus will presently remain on dealing with large-scale illega l land threats, combined wit h patrolling to detect new threats, re-establish ing signposts, and raising awareness about the IFBAs among communities. We will a lso try to ra ise more funds, for instance to expand the farmer training given by CEDAC to include communities living around the other three IFBAs. We are a lso looking to set up new floodpla in IFBAs in Kampong Chhnang province and upland IFBAs, where the Bengal Floricans move to in the wet season in Kampong Thom. We are convinced th a t with continued Ministeria l support the long-term prospects are good. This project is a joint initiative of BirdLife International Cambodia Programme, the Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia Program and the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with financial support from Fondation Ensemble and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Ed.

Male Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis Photo: J C Eames

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Latest search fails to find the Pink-headed Duck In January 2008, and for the fifth consecutive year, a BirdLife/Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association team conducted a search for the Critically Endangered and possibly extinct Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea in the lowlands of northern Kach in State, Myanmar. For the fifth consecutive ye ar they fa iled to find the species or any convincing evidence of its existence there. Th is year the search concentrated on three previously surveyed locations from where the species had been cla imed or reported in t h e recent past. For the th ird time a team visited the grasslands at Nawng Kwin, where some members of the 2004 team believed they h ad seen a Pink- headed Duck on 1 December 2004. Despite the h igher water levels th a n in previous visits in 2004 and 2006 and the presence of flocks of Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha haringtoni and Eurasian Teal Anas crecca there were no tanta lizing glimpses of any unidentified ducks. As in 2006, t h e team again visited the oxbow lakes along the Indaw River north of Chaung Wa village. Th is year the team could not even relocate the mysterious Maung Maung who had cla imed to see the species there in 2006. The team did find the active nest of a Dusky Eagle Owl Bubo coromandus, the f irst record for Kachin Sta te. Th is was followed by a return to a selection of the larger ox-bow lakes along the Tanai River including Se Hnaung In where local fisherman Win Bo had reported the species in 2003. Again, no sightings of Pink-headed Duck a lthough the team did observe a pa ir of Wh ite-winged Ducks Cairina scutulata. The wetland h ad changed considerably with a screen of trees now blocking a view over the adjacent grasslands. At Lamaung In there was a similar story: A site th a t h ad been good for duck and geese in previous years had become overgrown in the absence of domestic Wa ter Buffa lo to keep the grass in check. At Hin Kaw In the presence of larger numbers of fisherman th an in previous years did not appear to have diminished the importance of the site for birds and on two visits the team recorded two Wh ite-winged Ducks, three Masked Finfoots Heliopais personata (clearly proving the residency of the species in northern Myanmar during the northern winter) and a first winter Wh iteta iled Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla.

One of three Masked Finfoots Heliopais personata recorded during the survey. Photo: J C Eames Unlike previous surveys, the January 2008 trip was marked by bad weather, including snow in the Hukaung Va l ley and heavy rainfall, h igh winds and low daytime temperatures. At least the presence of cloud cover on many days kept the winter fogs at bay. The team met with various misfortunes during the trip including a collision with a bridge support th at catapulted the cook (who could luckily swim) out of the boat and into the river, a camp being flattened due to h igh winds, a boat th a t broke its moorings and floated off down river and a mammoth trek back to Mytkyina from Tanai th a t took nearly 17 hours rather th an the usual six as a result of collapsed bridges. To cap it all an aircraft under carriage failure on a re-fueling stop in Mandalay caused further anxiety and delay.

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W h ite-winged Ducks Cairina scutulata were aga in recorded on Hinkaw In (Above). Large numbers of Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus were recorded at the northern end of the Indawgyi (Below) Photos: J C Eames

Th is expedition concludes our attempts to search for the Pink-headed Duck in Kachin Sta te. Future BirdLife searches will focus on Mandalay Division, the only part of Myanmar from which specimen records of the Pinkheaded Duck were obtained historica lly. Jonathan C Eames Programme Manager BirdLife International in Indochina

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Integrating watershed and biodiversity management at Chu Yang Sin National Park, Vietnam Between October and December 2007, the project focused on the reptile and amphibian surveys (see next report), preparation of a coordinated enforcement programme with other agencies, contacting training institutions for sending rangers to training courses and recruitment of consultants for various activities. In general, the speed of implementation has been quite slow due to unfavorable weather conditions (i.e. abnormally long rainy season), shortage of human resources (i.e. in the la ter h a lf of th is quarter, all park staff were deployed in the forest to combat rampant illegal logging) and diff iculty in recruiting suitably qualif ied and affordable short term consultants for a number of activities. It was decided th a t providing financia l support for park staff to attend ready-made courses delivered by forestry schools in the south are the most efficient way to implement tra ining in forest and land-use laws and regulations. The project and the park management have contacted Forestry School number 2 (located in Trang Bom district- Dong Na i Province) and with the school of Agriculture and Rural Development Manageria l St a f f No. 2 in Ho Ch i Minh City to look for relevant courses. These two schools promised to send CYS NP the ir tra ining schedule soon. In th is reporting quarter, at the request of CYS national park, the project provided financia l support for eight park rangers to attend a six-week training course on using patrol dogs at a professional dog tra ining centre in Hanoi. The Ede language classes have been maintained with h igh interest by both the teacher and students. However, due to the h igh pressure of illegal logging during this time of the year, the classes will probably have to be interrupted to allow park rangers to concentrate on patrolling and combating illega l logging. Two big development projects – the Krong Kmar’s hydroelectricity dam and the East Truong Son road – are being built on part of the CYS NP without the park’s consultation or engagement. Currently, another two hydropower projects are planned with in CYS NP boundaries, wh ich the park h as strongly objected (the park director did send a petition to the Prime Minister). Hopefully, those projects won’t be approved. S ince receiving training on Biodiversity Monitoring Programme by the project in June 2006, park rangers h a ve conducted month ly patrols in the forest following tra ils assigned for each guard station. Data collection h as focused on species and illegal activities encountered during the patrols. These data were entered in diary and survey sheets and then stored in computer (in Excel files) by the project officer. To the end of December 2007, data collected cover eight of the twenty-eight tra ils in core zone and seventeen of the tota l twenty-f ive tra i ls in the buffer zone. Th is is a regular activity, however not much data were collected along the line of impact indicators during th is reporting quarter because of unfavorable weather conditions (abnormally long ra iny season) and manpower shortage (as in December most of rangers from all guard stations were deployed in the forest to combat illegal logging). During th is period, nine cases of illega l logging and hunting were arrested. Nina Ksor, Project Field Manager Le Trong Trai, Programme Officer Pham Tuan Anh, Vietnam Programme Manager

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First Herpetile survey in Chu Yang Sin National Park yields dramatic results Chu Yang Sin National Park (IBA VN030) is well known for its ornithological riches. These include all of the eight species wh ich define EBA 145, the Da Lat plateau; it is one of only two sites known to support a population of Collared Laughingthrush Garrulax yersini. In contrast, unti l la te last year, its herpetofauna was poorly known. In October-November 2007 Nikola i Orlov and a small team spent 26 days surveying reptiles and amphibians with in the Na tional Park, as part of BirdLife’s World Bank and Globa l Environment Fund financed project: Integrating Wa tershed and Biodiversity Management in Chu Yang Sin National Park. One of five similar Sylvirana sp. recorded in Chu Yang S in NP. Photo: BirdLife/Nikola i Orlov The team surveyed eight sites from 500 to 1,600 m. on the north-western slopes of mountain ridges in the Krong K’Mar River basin, including the slope of peak after which the national park is named. The team recorded 80 species of amph ibians and reptiles, including 25 species wh ich are considered endemic to the centra l h igh l ands of Vietnam, and 16% of the species recorded in the country. The h aul included 37 frogs, one caecilian, 22 lizards and 20 snakes, and eight of these species may prove to be new to science. Nikola i is now in the process of describing these species, which include one pit viper, Trimeresurus sp. and seven frogs: three Ophryophryne, two Philautus one Rhacophorus and one Sylvirana. Even if some of them prove not to be new for science, they are a l l like ly to be new for Vietnam. Montane evergreen forest is critical for these species - seven of the eight possib le new species were found only between 900 and 1,600 m. The results of th is survey h igh light the critica l importance of Chu Yang Sin National Park for mainta ining herpetile diversity in the centra l h igh lands, and the global importance of the region as a centre for cross-taxa endemism. Together with data on the distribution of restricted range birds, there is now a very persuasive case for the effective protection of the remaining montane evergreen forest in the h igh lands of Vietnam. However these habita ts continue to be degraded through logging and infrastructure development projects. The proposed hypro-power project (Eaktour) planned for part of the Na tional Park where th is survey took place is likely to destroy a signif icant are a of amphibian habita t. The team found th a t the herpetofauna of Chu Yang Sin was broadly similar to th a t found on Rhacophorus sp. nova? Many new species have been other mountain peaks in distant parts of described from th is genus in recent years. Photo: V ietnam, such as Mt Fan Si Pan, despite the h igh BirdLife/Nikola i Orlov percentage of central h igh lands endemic species recorded. Also, the community composition was more similar to th a t found in those areas th an to th a t wh ich might be expected in lowland forests closer by. The high percentage of localized and newly discovered species recorded on the survey point to the presence of more as yet undiscovered biologica l riches and patterns of

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diversity wh ich lie h idden in other under surveyed and oft neglected taxonomic groups; both in the centra l h igh lands, and elsewhere in Vietnam. Many of the species wh ich may prove to be new to science were cryptic, species which look very similar to a congener, and wh ich might indeed be considered the same species were it not for the fact th at they occur sympatrical ly and mate assortively. Genetic analysis of cryptic species pa irs often revea ls th at t he species involved are not in fact each others closest relatives, but instead a neat example of convergent evolution. Under Nikola i’s expert eye, these mysteries are being unraveled and the true patterns of diversity revealed.

Considered Vulnerable globally, Rhacophorus annamensis is restricted to the southern part of the central h igh lands of V ietnam, and has a lso been recorded in the extreme east of Cambodia. Photo: BirdLife/Nikola i Orlov Of the 37 frogs recorded, there were one Vulnerable, one Endangered and five Data Def icient species (the IUCN Red List has not been completed for the other taxonomic groups). All but one of the Data Deficient species were recorded at more th an one study site, indicating th a t they may not be uncommon at Chu Yang Sin and th at t h e site is potentia lly of global importance for these poorly known species. The Endangered species, Vibrissaphora ngoclinhensis, was only described in 2005 (by Nikola i) and its discovery at Chu Yang Sin represents one of very few records of the species. Nikola i and colleagues hope to return to Chu Yang Sin in 2008 to continue training of Na tional Park staff and increase the ir survey area and effort. They plan to survey a t h igher elevations and at a different time of year next time, since there can be almost complete community turnover in herpetiles in different seasons. The team may therefore record almost as many species aga in, and if past survey efforts and patterns of bird species discovery over the last 15 years are anyth ing to go by, there should a lso be plenty more surprises in store.

Trimeresurus sp. nova? Vipers typically rely on visua l crypsis to avoid detection, but it was taxonomic crypsis which kept th is viper h idden from science until th is survey a t Chu Yang Sin. Photo: BirdLife/Nikola i Orlov

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Simon Mahood Conservation Advisor BirdLife International in Indochina


BirdLife International in Indochina

White-shouldered ibis research project, Cambodia The Wh ite-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni has at last become the subject of deta iled research th anks to collaboration between BirdLife International Cambodia Programme and the University of East Anglia, UK. Over the next four years, UEA student Hugh Wright will be working to revea l many of the unknowns regarding the ecology and status of th is critica lly endangered species. The research began th is spring with a three-month fieldwork visit to Western Siem Pang IBA in northern Cambodia, a location th a t boasts the h ighest numbers of Wh ite-shouldered Ibis ever recorded. Th is preliminary study, forming part of an MSc disserta tion, is focusing on the foraging ecology of the species around their preferred feeding sites, the seasonal pools with in dry dipterocarp forest known as trapaengs. Th is research a ims to uncover the influentia l factors in the selection of the ibis’ favored foraging habita t, and consider t h e h abita t dynamics at trapaengs between the early and late dry season. Days spent closely observing Wh iteshouldered Ibis will develop the understanding of th is species’ feeding strategy and prey resource use. Through a PhD programme, which begins th is autumn, Hugh will be examining the influence of traditi onal land management practices on both the foraging and breeding ecology of Wh ite-shouldered Ibis. An investigation into the livelihoods of local people will enable the identif ication of the crucia l interactions between humans, Wh ite-shouldered Ibis and the dry dipterocarp forest ecosystem. Th is will draw upon evidence from several sites across Cambodia and work in cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation Socie ty and the Forestry Administration of Cambodia. Th is project will be fundamenta l to the development of effective conservation strategies based upon sound ecologica l knowledge of the species and an understanding of community needs. Such strategies have the potentia l to benefit many endangered water birds and local liveli hoods, as both are under imminent th rea t from planned land concessions and infrastructural projects. The findings of the research will a lso demonstra te the importance of sites such as Western Siem Pang IBA. If these sites cannot gain urgent protection, South-East Asia will witness the loss of some it’s only remaining, ecologica l va luable wetlands. Hugh Wright University of East Anglia

W h ite-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni copulating Photo: J C Eames

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Searching for the Critically Endangered White-eyed Rivermartin in Cambodia The Wh ite-eyed River-martin is probably the most poorly known bird in mainland Asia. It was discovered in January 1968 in centra l Tha i land. Even the precise location birds were first collected remains unclear but seems like ly to have been at, or near, Bung (Lake) Borap h et. Further birds were collected up to 1971, but after t h a t the species effectively disappeared, despite surveys in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1988, with subsequent reported sightings only in 1978 and 1980, and a report of a bird trapped by locals in 1986. Bung Borap het is artif icia l, and thus essentia l ly noth ing is known of the true natura l h abitat, range, or ecology of the species. Its closest rela tive, the African River-martin, nests colonia lly in sandbar burrows on large rivers in the Congo and feeds over forests and grasslands. The larger eyes and bill of Wh ite-eyed River-martin suggest different ecology, perh aps including a crepuscular or nocturnal nature. It h as a lso been suggested th a t it may nest in tree holes or caves. Virtually a ll th a t is known about th is species is th a t it must be extremely rare and – given its rapid disappearance – likely under h igh threat of extinction. Hirundines at Bung Boraphet are under sever pressure from bird trappers. An urgent need thus exists to find the breeding and (if the species is migratory, as has been supposed) non-breeding grounds of the species, and implement conservation action. To date, few such surveys h ave been attempted owing to the complete lack of knowledge (surveys in northern Tha iland in 1969 and northern Laos in 1996 were unsuccessful), but the longer searches are put off the less likely they are to be successful. The only possible sighting of Wh ite-eyed River-martin away from Bung Boraphet h as come from the Sre Ambel river in the lowlands of south-east Cambodia in March 2004, an area with very little survey effort to date, rela tively large amounts of remaining forest h abita t, and rela tively low population density and disturbance (the Sre Ambel is a lso notable for supporting one of the few remaining South-East Asian populations of the Ba tagur turtle, a species very affected by human over exploita tion). Although a lot of uncerta inty surrounds th is sighting, it is currently the only real lead to the possible location of the species. Forestry Administration and BirdLife staff will visit the area of the 2004 report, in March/April 2008, wit h the a im of ascerta ining the reliability of the 2004 report and rediscovering th is ‘lost’ species. It is a gamble, but with a species of th is rarity and mystery, we have few other options. We will search for possibly suitable locations (e.g., reed beds along the river) and interview local people to see whether any recognize pictures of the species (compared to potentia l confusion species). If the species is found, a ll efforts will be taken to obta in photos in order to verify the record. The BirdLife International-Cambodia Programme has a very keen interest in putting in place conservation action for the species if we can refind it. Th is project will address part of the priority conserva tion action identified by BirdLife: “Conduct surveys for the species along all major rivers with in its putative breeding range (northern Tha iland, southern China , Myanmar and Laos) and search a lternative h abitats such as forests and limestone cave systems.” Note th at t h e search country, Cambodia, was not previously envisaged as a priority search area, but the only recent possib le lead on the species’ whereabouts has been from Cambodia. If the species is found in Cambodia, and it only proves to be a non-breeding area, such a finding will nonethe less raise enormous publicity and reinvigorate the search for the species’ breeding grounds, which has currently largely been given up on. John Pilgrim Conservation Advisor BirdLife International in Indochina

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White-eared Night Heron rediscovered in Vietnam The rare and enigmatic Wh ite-eared Night Heron Gorsachius magnificus known only from China and Vietnam h as been found in northern Vietnam by a team from BirdLife International Vietnam Programme and t h e Na tional Museum of Nature, Hanoi, Vietnam. Between February and April the BirdLife and National Museum of Nature team is spending six weeks surveying sites in northern Vietnam for the Wh ite-eared Night Heron, a globally Endangered species which breeds in south-east Ch ina and for which there are just two previous records from Vietnam. Following a poster campaign offering a reward for information on the species, the team traveled to Xuan Lac Commune in Bac Kan Province, the area from where an earlier BirdLife team recorded the species in April 2001. On 4th March, the team received information tha t a Wh ite-eared Nig h t Heron had been seen regularly a long the river just south of Ban O. The following evening, the bird, a male, was heard calling at dusk from trees near the river before fly ing away from its roost down the va lley to feed. The bird was seen again on 7th March. The team was told th a t a pa ir h ad bred in the area in 2007, although t he juveniles were subsequently collected for food. A female bird shot th is year is said to have conta ined four eggs. On 11th March a different individual was heard calling at dusk near the hamlet of Coc Toc, just inside Ba Be National Park. The bird was seen to fly away from its roosting site to feed in an area of sma l l ponds and fields. The two sites are 8 km apart and both are at lower altitudes (150200m) th an is usual in Ch ina. These discoveries represent the th ird and fourth records for Vietnam and indica te th a t a small breeding population exists in Bac Kan Province. The second phase of the survey, in Bac Giang Province, starts on March 17th . “The recent records in Bac Kan Province are very important as it is the first time th is species was confirmed as a breeding resident in Vietnam. Because of th is species’ rarity, Ba Be is more eligible to be designated under t h e Ramsar Convention on wetlands,” said Nguyen Duc Tu, BirdLife’s Project Coordinator. This project is funded by the Roya l Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the BirdLife Partner in the United Kingdom and the Orienta l Bird Club. Nguyen Duc Tu Wetlands Officer, BirdLife International Vietnam Programme

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Publications The h istorica l and current status of Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea in Myanmar Andrew W. Tordoff , Tim Appleton, Jonath an C. Eames, Karin Eberhardt, Htin Hla, K h in Ma Ma Thwin, Sao Myo Zaw, Saw Moses and Sein Myo Aung Bird Conservation International (2008), 18:38-52 Cambridge University Press Abstract Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea is a Critically Endangered species th a t h as not been confirmed in the wild since 1948–1949. Historica l records of the species are concentrated in India, a lthough there are a lso a few from Myanmar. Between 2003 and 2005, BirdLife International and the Biodiversity and Na ture Conservation Association (BANCA) conducted a series of field surveys of wetland habitats in the lowlands of Kach in state, an area with a cluster of h istorica l records of the species. These were the first targeted efforts to assess the sta tus of the species in Myanmar. These surveys were complemented by reviews of museum specimens and literature rela ting to the species in Myanmar. Two specimen records represent very strong evidence th at t he species occurred in Myanmar historica lly, a lthough they shed little light on its seasonal status in the country. The surveys conducted by BirdLife International and BANCA were unable to confirm the continued occurrence of Pink-headed Duck in Myanmar. However, they did generate a limited amount of equivocal direct evidence, most notably two possible but unconfirmed sightings. There are several reasons for believing th a t the species may stil l persist in the lowlands of Kachin state and, perhaps, elsewhere in Myanmar. Shyness, combined with rarity, possible nocturnal h abits and the impenetrability of its habita ts, means th at the species tended to be under-recorded historically, and may continue to be so currently. Further surveys are required to confirm th is.

Species-level changes proposed for Asian birds Nigel J. Collar and John D. Pilgrim Birding ASIA (2007), 8:14-30 Orienta l Bird Club In th is article the authors summarize avian taxonomic changes th a t h ave been proposed in the literature in t he years 2005 and 2006.

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Book reviews Birds of Tam Dao: Vietnam’s Natural Treasure Mekki Sa la h , 2008. Van Hoa - Thong Tin 142 pages, colour photographs. ISBN - 5-077-04362-4 Mekki Sa la h is a man of many ta lents – formerly an Algerian diploma t and restaurant owner, he is now a hotelier and bird photographer. His most recent ach ievement has been to produce th is resplendent new book on his passion; the birds of Tam Dao National Park in northern V ietnam. Mekki took all the glossy full-colour photographs of more th an one hundred species in th is book, over h is last seven years in Tam Dao. Anyone who has spent time birdwatch ing in Tam Dao, often shrouded in fog or drenched by ra in, will know wh a t a remarkable ach ievement it h as been for h im to capture so many of the bird species of the park on film. With h is photos, he effectively conveys the wonder of Tam Dao’s wildlife and scenery. With the snippets of text about individual bird species th a t h ave caught h is attention, h is infectious enthusiasm for th is specia l place is brought to life. As Jonath an Eames, Programme Manager of BirdLife International in Indochina, stresses in his foreword to t h e book, Tam Dao is a park under siege. Despite considerable donor support, hunting and illegal infrastructure and inappropria te infrastructure projects have continued in the park (see previous issues of the Babbler). Mekki h as long been an advocate for conservation of the park and the well-deserved success of th is new book, with t h e first edition already a lmost sold out but a second edition in planning, suggests th a t h is message is fina l ly reach ing a much wider audience. Let us all hope th a t he ach ieves h is a im and Tam Dao’s biodiversity lives on in more th an just the pages of th is book. John Pilgrim Conservation Advisor BirdLife International in Indochina

A Field Guide to the Mammals of South East Asia Charles M Francis. 2008. New Holland. 392 pages, colour plates, distribution maps. ISBN-13: 9781845377359 South-East Asia is one of the richest parts of the world in terms of mammals, with species new to science still being described on a regular basis. The first comprehensive guide to the mamma ls of th is region, "A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia " covers a ll the mammals recorded from mainland South-East Asia, from Myanmar through Th a iland, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and south to Malaysia. A deta iled account with key identification characteristics, habita t and behavior is included for each species, from large mammals such as big cats, the elephant, rhinoceroses and cetaceans, through bears, langurs and badgers, to bats, fly ing-foxes and rodents. Deta iled line drawings amplify deta ils of anatomy and other aspects. Seventy-two magnif icent specia lly commissioned colour plates by top wildlife artists show nearly 500 major species, and thumbnail maps give information on distribution. http://www.nhbs.com, 21 March 2008

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Rare Birds Yearbook 2008 Edited by Erik Hirschfeld. Mag Dig Media Ltd. 2008. 273 pages, colour photographs, maps. ISBN-13: 9780955260735. The vision of the Rare Birds Yearbook is to improve the chances of surviva l of the world's most threatened birds in two ways. Its primary purpose is to describe the situation of the 189 Critica lly Endangered Species in a comprehensible and popular way. The Rare Birds Yearbook should be equally engaging for dedicated ornithologists and birders, and for general readers. In the book, the spotlight h as been placed on the often-dramatic circumstances, which h ave pushed a large number of species to the brink of extinction. But it a lso highlights the good examples, cases where active commitment and h ard work have improved the bird's prospects. The second way the Rare Birds Yearbook improves the chances of surviva l for th is species is by raising funds for BirdLife International, donating £4.00 for each book sold. The main part of the book is a directory of the 189 critically endangered species with h istory, the la test information on the status of the species, wh a t measures are being taken to protect them, and more th an 500 photos, paintings and maps. Photographers from all over the world h ave contributed with often unique images of these rarely encountered species. The book a lso conta ins a number of specially written feature articles on issues rela ted to threatened birds such as climate change, the people who find rare birds, and ecotourism. The book a lso has sections of statistics and lists, a directory of regional organizations and commercia l bird tour companies arranging travel to see critica lly endangered birds, and much more. http://www.nhbs.com, 21 March 2008

Life in the Valley of Death The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed Alan Rabinowitz. Island Press. 2008. 230 pages, illustrations. ISBN-13: 9781597261296 Alan Rabinowitz’s la test book, “Life in the Va lley of Death ,” describes the controversia l efforts of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to establish the Hukawng Va lley Tiger Reserve in northern Burma’s Kach in Sta te. In 1993, WCS became the first international nongovernmental organization to establish a project inside Burma. Rabinowitz is the executive director of the New York-based organization’s Science and Exploration Program. The book offers readers a rare look at how large-scale conservation programs unfold in Burma, where efforts involve cooperation among military officia ls, ethnic army commanders, dedicated local staf f , foreign nature conservationists and local villagers. Instead of opening a window onto the Burmese regime’s decision-making process and the country’s complex environmental politics, however, the book strays far too often into Rabinowitz’s personal struggles. Passages deta il ing the author’s childhood speech impediment, which he rose above by turning to animals as an escape, h is struggling marriage and his diagnosis with cancer, add little to readers’ understanding of Burma’s environmenta l issues. The reader can only wish th a t Rabinowitz had focused more on his hard-working Burmese colleagues, the poor villagers dea ling with new hunting and access regulations, and the junta leaders and government ministers who ultimately made the f inal decisions. Giving a voice to these groups, which are either too marginalized to be heard or too powerful to gain access to, would have helped to give a clearer picture of the state of environmenta l governance in Burma.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Unfortunately, the book also lacks insight into Burma’s culture and politics and says little about the diverse ethnic minorities who inhabit the Hukawng Va lley. Given Rabinowitz’s privileged access to th is restricted area of the country, it is a pity th at he didn’t reflect more on the socio-cultural factors of h is conservation work. One exception is his brief description of the fascinating religious beliefs of the Naga regarding tigers. Rabinowitz’s cla im th a t the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve represents “a pivota l conservation model for our time” demands closer inspection. Rabinowitz now eschews the outdated “people-less” approach to conservation in Burma th a t h ad earlier earned him and WCS-Burma much criticism: “I would be courting fa ilure if I did not consider the lives and liveli hoods of the local people who live with th a t wildlife.” But some readers wil l remain skeptica l about the ability of the WCS to put its newly branded rhetoric into practice. Although it is commendable th a t WCS h as managed to get the Burmese regime and the Kach in Independence Army (KIA)—wh ich controls part of the va lley, with headquarters at Aung Leuk—ta lk ing about conservation, it is doubtful th a t a multi-stakeholder approach is possible in Burma. For example, the park got the go-a h ead from the government before the KIA was properly consulted. When Rabinowitz tried to get the KIA to sign off on the reserve, he did so without telling them about new restrictions th a t would be placed on their territory and then tried to convince them th a t it would ultimately he lp to “preserve their land and their cultural herita ge.” W hen the KIA continued to hesita te, the regime’s northern commander simply told them th at they “ha d to accept the Hukawng Va lley Tiger Reserve.” Thus the world’s largest tiger reserve—paraded by WCS-Burma as a new model of conservation—was established. Another significant issue is the rela tionship between the establishment of the tiger reserve and the increasing militarization of the area. Rabinowitz denies th at WCS is directly a iding increased militarization in na ture parks in Burma. But WCS—through its repeated meetings with military officia ls—h as inadvertently raised the profile of specif ic high biodiversity areas as a new resource-rich territory for the military to exploit. Despite Rabinowitz’s denial, he notes th a t there are now more Burmese military bases being established along the Ledo Road through the Hukawng Va lley, more military activities around Tanai, and increased military presence in Naga areas in the va lley. He is forced to admit th a t “clearly the military is tightening its grip on the area.” A further sign of the regime’s growing hold on the region was the introduction of Burma’s first wildlife police task force, created specif ica lly for the tiger reserve and subsidized by WCS. Interestingly, th is was recommended by former Prime Minister K h in Nyunt, the “most powerful a lly [the WCS h as] ever had for t h e Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve.” Rabinowitz’s Burmese colleagues do not, however, share his enthusiasm for housing Burmese police in the reserve, as they know too well th a t “the police will take advantage of the situation in any way possible.” Although Rabinowitz has done an admirable job of communicating to the regime the importance of protecting the Hukawng Va lley from the impact of gold mining and plantation development, the measures being taken to preserve th is awesome cultural and ecologica l landscape are perh aps too little, too late. The book ends seemingly unfinished, leaving a fragile tiger reserve being squared off into gold-mining concessions, plantations and road upgrades, managed only by WCS and Burma’s mercurial military rulers. Zao Noem, The Irawaddy, Vol. 16: 3 March 2008

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Forest Environments in the Mekong River Basin Edited by H Sawada, M Arak i, N.A Chappell, J.V La Frankie and A S h imizu. Springer-Verlag 2008. 299 pages, 100 illustrations. ISBN-13: 9784431465003 Until now, there have been few research works on Cambodian forests because of the long period of civil war, which restricted forest researchers and surveyors in the area. Th is book presents many new topics of research in forests such as those of Cambodia, wh ich were unava ilable until now. One of the most attractive features of the volume is th a t it fil ls the gaps in data about the world's forests. The book consists of three parts: forest hydrology, forest management, and forest ecology, designed to provide an understanding of continenta l river basins. The la test data are presented here, as derived from advanced observation systems for atmospheric flux, ground water level, soil water movement, and stable isotope varia tion as well as remote sensing, wh ich are used for continuous measurements of forest environments. h ttp://www.nhbs.com, 21 March 2008

Keeping Asia’s Spoonbills Airborne: Proceedings of the International Symposium on research and Conservation of the Black-faced Spoonbill, Hong Kong 16-18 January 2006. Hong Kong Birdwatch ing Society 2007. Hong Kong Birdwatch ing Society, Hong Kong. The Globally Threatened Black-faced Spoonbill is a flagsh ip species for water bird and wetland conservation across th e Asia region. Its population is over 1,700 according to the internationa l census in January 2007 and it is still considered Globally Endangered. To concentrate t he effort to protect the Black-faced Spoonbill and the ir na tural environment, the Hong Kong Bird Wa tch ing Society, the BirdLife Internationa l aff ilia te, organized a 3-day international symposium between 16 to 18 January 2006. The main goal of the symposium was to ensure long-term future of Black-faced Spoonbills and their h abitats to prevent its extinction. We reviewed the research and conservation effort in Hong Kong and in east Asia and identified measures for future action, as well as to strengthen the existing network and to identify a wider partnership for Black-faced Spoonbill Conservation. With the support from BirdLife Asia Division, the symposium also reviewed the Action Plan for future conservation of the Black-faced Spoonbill. About 50 spoonbill experts and conservationist from Korea, Japan, mainland Ch ina, Ta iwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam and the Netherlands participa ted in th is symposium. CHEUNG Ho-fai Chairman, Hong Kong Bird Watching Society Above we have reproduced an edited version of the Foreword from the report.

Ed.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

Staff news During th is period we have seen three staff leave and have employed severa l short-term consultants. Le Quynh Giao the Administrative Officer in the Hanoi office left us at the end of March. Our driver in Cambodia, Sok Ph a lly a lso left us to start h is own business. Prach Pich Ph irun, seconded from the Forestry Administration to our Cambodia programme returned to h is post. We would like to th ank them for their h ard work and wish them well for the future. Karin Eberhardt once again worked for us as a consultant, th is time bravely venturing beyond Myanmar to Cambodia. In Cambodia we engaged Richard Lloyd and Seth Theng on a component of the Biodiversi ty Conservation Corridors Initia tive we implemented for WWF in Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary (more on th a t project in the next issue).

Vietnam Programme Tran Thi Phuong Lan Born in Hanoi in 1974, Tran Th i Phuong Lan graduated from Hanoi Banking Institute with Bachelor of Economy, major in Finance and Accounting in 1997. Following th a t she worked for the United Nations Population Fund Program in Vietnam as a Financia l Officer. Lan recently joined the BirdLife International in Indochina – Vietnam Programme Team as a accountant. S he is currently dedicated to working on the Asian Development Bank funded project entitled Initiating a Local-Stakeholder-Based Monitoring Programme for the BCI Priority Sites. “I rea lize th at I’m lucky h aving th e opportunity to work in a friendly and fresh working environment at BirdLife. I hope to further develop and improve my skills so th a t I could contribute more to the development of BirdLife in the future. Lan is married and lives in Hanoi.

Simon Mahood For the past eighteen months, Simon has been working for BirdLife International, Cambridge, in a number of different contracts. During th is time he worked on a species range mapping project, co-ordianted their work on avian flu, and most recently, completed the 2008 Red List Update Assessment. Since the inception of th e Red List, Simon had always wanted to work a t BirdLife, and so tak ing part in the 2008 update was a small life-time goal achieved. Prior to working at BirdLife, Simon dabbled in ecological impact assessment, and achieved a distinction in the Applied Ecology and Conservation MSc at the University of East Anglia. His dissertation, which examined th e novel avif aunal assemblage of the cattle ranchlands in the Brazilian Amazon, was the first study to fully investigate the birds of th is habitat. Simon has had an interest in birds for as long as he can remember, and th is h as manifested itself in a passion for birding, particularly in the tropics. Until h is university days much of th is was done vicariously, as a ch i ld he read the Where to watch birds in… series and trip reports in the same way th a t most people read novels.

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BirdLife International in Indochina

S ince then he has enjoyed birding in many countries throughout the world, often combining th is with assisting scientists with the ir studies. Much of his time was spent in South America, where he a lso worked as a guide in a lodge in the Brazilian Amazon for four months. Working on the Red List re-ignited Simon’s passion for conservation, and th is provided the impetus for h is move to Vietnam. There he hopes th a t by working as Conservation Advisor to a number of BirdLife’s projects, he can contribute to species and habita t conservation in the region in a way th at he could not do from an office in Cambridge. Cambodia Programme Hugh Wright Hugh Wright is currently studying for an MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation at the University of East Anglia, UK. The course encourages fieldwork abroad and members of staff a t the university h ave a strong commitment to the research of endangered birds in SouthEast Asia. Prior to th is course Hugh studied for a BA degree in Geography at St. John’s College, University of Oxford, ach ieving the h ighest overall mark of h is year. Hugh’s undergraduate dissertation, ‘The avif aunal biogeography of the Blackdown Hills, England: a comparative eva luation of incidence functions’ studied the influence of landscape habitat fragmentation on woodland birds. Th is work h as recently been awarded the prestigious 2008 Alfred Steers Prize by the Roya l Geograph ical Society and Institute of British Geographers. Hugh h as had a passion for birds since childhood, wh ich he h as expressed through h is hobby as a birdwatcher. In his home county in England, he greatly enjoys visiting the nationally important wetlands of the Somerset Levels, and the Exe Estuary Ramsar site in Devon. Hugh h as a lso displayed h is enthusiasm through voluntary conservation work. As well as becoming involved in practical conservation, Hugh was elected onto the teenage council of the RSPB where he contributed to RSPB publications and took guided walks at the British Bird Fa ir, amongst other locations. Outside of academic work Hugh has found the time to seek work experience with BirdLife International science, policy and information department, Cambridge, and Natural England Somerset Team. During the summer of 2007 he a lso trained as an ecological consultant doing a mixture of habita t, bird, bat and repti le surveys and translocations. Hugh now hopes to make a signif icant contribution to the conservation of a critica lly endangered species by researching Wh ite-shouldered Ibis in northern Cambodia. His current MSc research and forthcoming PhD project on th is species will significantly improve the scientific knowledge of th is water bird and hopefully bring it a step closer to safety. Hugh is not strictly speaking a member of staff but the research project on which he works forms part of collaboration between BirdLife and the University of East Anglia, and we are supporting his research costs.

Ed.

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Profile Dr. Alexander L. Monastyrskii is the world’s leading authority on the butterfly fauna of Vietnam. In t h is profile we look at the career and life of th is well-known and dedicated scientist who has worked closely wit h BirdLife in Vietnam over many years and who has been responsible for the discovery and description of many species new for science. Fifty-three years old Alexander Monastyrskii, or Sash a to h is friends, has made Hanoi h is home for the last 17 years. Born in Russia, Sash a graduated from the plant protection department of the Moscow Agricultural University in 1976. From then until 1989 he researched microbiologica l techniques for controlling Lepidoptera pests. In 1983 he went on to defend his doctora l dissertation on the mass-rearing of moths using artif icia l diets and the maintenance of Lepidoptera colonies. S ince 1989 Sash a h as worked at t he V ietnam-Russia Research Tropical Centre (VRTC) in Hanoi. From 1990 to 1996 he studied on integrated rice-pest management techniques. Since 1995 he has been Head of t he Ecology Department at VRTC. In 1994 Sash a began his long-term study of butterfly fauna of V ietnam. Th is work has included making a new inventory of the butterfly fauna, the collection of data on butterf ly ecology and biology, including habita t use and distribution. The work has a lso involved the study of butterflies as indicators of the sta tus and condition of tropica l forest ecosystems and the biogeograph ic origins of the ecosystems. Sash a collecting in Na Hang Nature Reserve, July 2002. Photo: J C Eames One of the most important aspects of th is work are his taxonomic studies, involving the description of new butterfly taxa. During for more th an 13 years of study Sash a h as visited and collected data on the V ietnamese butterfly fauna at more th an 40 sites across the country. Sash a h as participated in a number of scientif ic expeditions, organized by the VRTC, BirdLife International and WWF Indochina Programmes. During the 1990s Sasha participated in several BirdLife and Forest Inventory and Planning Institute expeditions to little known or unexplored parts of V ietnam, particularly in the centra l h igh lands. Th is programme of collecting resulted in Sash a f inding and collecting about 100 butterfly taxa new for science. He h as personally authored or co-authored type descriptions of more th an 60 butterfly taxa new for science. Sash a h as been responsible for adding 50% of a ll butterfly species to the nationa l list. He is an author of more th an 60 scientific reports and papers. Most recently Sash a h as begun the drafting and publication of a monograph of the butterflies of Vietnam. Of volume 2 covering the Papilionidae, world Lepidoptera authority Dick Vane Wright commented, “For the first time, with th is outstanding new book, we will h ave a coherent description of the swallowta ils of Vietnam.” Th is series, with two volumes already published will occupy Sash a’s time for several more years.

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