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The Babbler Number 35 - September 2010

Eld’s Deer bas relief, Bayon, Angkor, Cambodia Photo by Jonathan C. Eames

Number 35 - September 2010

Working together for birds and people

BirdLife International in Indochina is a subregional programme of the BirdLife Secretarial 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. Ba Dinh P.O. Box 89, 6 Dinh Le, Hanoi, Vietnam. Tel: +84-4-3 5148904 Cambodia Programme Office (new location) #9, Street 29 Tonle Basac, Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia P.O.Box: 2686 Tel/Fax: +85523 993 631

CONTENTS • Comment • Feature: CEPF Mid-term Assessment in Indo-Burma Hotspot • Regional News: Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Hunting in Myanmar is the cause of the population crash Sinking deltas due to human activities Vietnam’s Environmental Police dig their claws into illegal big cat trade First record of Eastern grass owl Tyto longimembris in Cambodia Laos: Champassak forests under threat despite logging ban Cambodia: Forest official raises alarm on mine plan • IBA News: Aquaculture development not slowed by Ramsar designation at Xuan Thuy National Park, Vietnam • Rarest of the rare: River of Giants: Giant fish of the Mekong • Project Updates: CEPF-RIT updates Shrinking IBAs of central Vietnam Increase in Cambodia’s Vultures Gives Hope to Imperilled Scavengers Largest ever White-shouldered Ibis count • Review: Birds of Cuc Phuong National Park A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia • Obituaries: Jack H. Cox P. and John Thorbjarnarson • Staff News • Photo Spot: Eld’s Deer


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


The Babbler is the quarterly newsletter of BirdLife International in Indochina. This quarter, The Babbler was compiled by Nguyen Huu Mai Phuong, Tran Thi Thanh Huong and edited by Jonathan C. Eames, The views expressed are those of contributors and are not necessarily those of BirdLife International.

even million, one hundred and twenty thousand Dollars have now been spent or allocated to projects in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam under the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Over one million, eight hundred thousand dollars alone have been spent or allocated to projects that directly address the conservation of Critically Endangered bird species. No other donor and no other NGO is making this contribution to conserving species in the Greater Mekong region and the BirdLife Indochina Programme is proud of the role it is playing. We are going to spend more: Almost one and half million Dollars remain to be spent and we will begin allocation of these funds after the closing date for Letters of Inquiry (LoI) on 30 September. These may be the last dedicated funds for species conservation in our region for a while. What comes next? There is no doubt that without CEPF these projects would not have happened because donors are not providing enough funds for biodiversity conservation in the Greater Mekong region. In this last round of funding we have drawn attention to the needs of three species that are slipping through the net, through lack of knowledge, which is restricting our ability to actively conserve them. Included in this category are Edwards’s Pheasant, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the enigmatic White-eyed River Martin. Whilst doubts linger that the river martin will ever be recorded again, the almost total absence of recently substantiated Edwards’s Pheasant records is alarming and suggests this species could face a similar fate. Although holding merely Endangered status, I am convinced Edwards’s Pheasant is Critically Endangered and we plan a number of future project interventions to improve its conservation status.

Communications Officers of the past, present and future: Tran Thi Thanh Huong (left), Ananda Johanna van Boeyen (centre) and Nguyen Huu Mai Phuong (right).

We have brought this issue of The Babbler to you ahead of schedule for two important reasons: Firstly, Phuong who has been with us for just over a year is leaving shortly and Huong, who has already led on CEPF communications issues, will take-over responsibilities for The Babbler. Phuong dramatically changed the appearance and layout of The Babbler and I am very grateful for the important contributions she has made. The second reasons is operational: In the second half of this month, new LoIs will begin flooding in and we want to have the decks cleared ready to begin processing your applications.

Jonathan C. Eames 3

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

CEPF Mid-term Assessment in Indo-Burma Hotspot


n June 2008 the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) began a $9.5 million, five year investment plan in the Indo-Burma Hotspot with BirdLife International in Indochina contracted to provide the Regional Implementation Team for its implementation. After over two years of implementation, a series of mid-term assessment meetings were held in Hanoi, Vietnam (on 26 July), Vientiane, Laos (on 28 July), and Phnom Penh, Cambodia (on 30 July). These workshops were aimed at undertaking a participatory assessment of progress towards the goals set out in the Ecosystem Profile, providing an opportunity to strengthen crosslinkages between CEPF grantees; identifying synergies with other donor investments and evaluating gaps in the CEPF portfolio and opportunities under the next funding round. Overall, over 90 people from 50 organisations attended the workshops including representatives from government departments, donors, grantees and mass media including l’Agence Française de Développement (Cambodia and Hanoi offices), Japan International Cooperation Agency (Lao office), Cambodia Ministry of Environment, Conservation International Japan. National and international media agencies like Vientiane Times, Phnom Penh Post, Kyodo News Agency, NHK TV also sent reporters to the event.

Background and small photos: BirdLife International in Indochina


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September

CEPF fundamental goals Biodiversity CEPF works to protect the Earth’s most biologically rich yet threatened areas

Since July 2008, CEPF and BirdLife have issued two calls for Letters of Inquiry (LoIs) for the region. The first call in August 2008 was for Cambodia and Vietnam, which had received national level Global Environment Facility focal point endorsements, attracted 74 applications from 53 organisations, of which 30 organisations (56%) were local entities.

Human wellbeing CEPF grants improve human wellbeing by assisting people to benefit from the ecosystems they depend on Civil society CEPF enables civil society to participate in and influence the conservation of critical ecosystems

Source: BirdLife International in Indochina

Source: CEPF

CEPF Investment Program Worldwide - Outcomes to date Improving land management for biodiversity and people: 10 million hectares of protected areas created and over 21 million hectares with improved management

Nearly one year later, in June 2009, the second call was made and extended to Lao PDR and Thailand. Over 110 proposals were submitted by 70 organisations, 50% of which were local NGOs.

Mainstreaming conservation in development decisions: At least 25 sectoral policies, supporting biodiversity conservation and mainstreaming conservation into development policy

Source: CEPF

Collective civil society impacts: More than 80 sustained civil society networks and 13 of 18 regions show improvements in their conservation communities

Source: BirdLife International in Indochina


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

By July 2010, 35 small grant LoIs (each equal or less than US$20,000 in value) and 25 large grant LoIs (larger than US$20,000) had been funded; six other small grant LoIs were under revision or at the final steps of contracting, and an additional eight large grant LoIs were at an advanced stage of developing full proposals. Fifty six small grant LoIs and 57 large grant LoIs were rejected owing to their ineligibility. Of the 60 live grants funded to date, 41 grants address Strategic Direction 1 (Safeguard priority globally threatened species in Indochina by mitigating major threats), three other grants target Strategic Direction 2 (Develop innovative, locally led approaches to site-based conservation at 28 key biodiversity areas), and 15 additional grants address Strategic Direction 3 (Engage key actors in reconciling biodiversity conservation and development objectives, with a particular emphasis on the Northern Limestone Highlands and Mekong River and its major tributaries), whilst BirdLife itself covers Strategic Direction 4 (Provide strategic leadership and effective coordination of CEPF investment through a regional implementation team).

Country Cambodia Lao PDR Thailand Vietnam Regional Total

Unallocated funds

Total fund contracted (US$) 1,466,493.91 479,964.00 1,820.00 1,909,691.76 1,237,887.57 5,094,858.24

Total fund allocated (USD) 1,336,815.00 245,000.00 19,719.00 0.00 425,424.00 2,026,958.00



At each workshop, selective grantees from all three Strategic Directions were chosen to present, reflecting the content an scope of the current portfolio. Grantees covered project context, objectives, projects’ expected contribution towards the CEPF investment strategy, impacts to date, and linkages to other CEPF projects and next steps. Fourteen projects were presented in Vietnam, seven in Laos and ten in Cambodia. A brief discussion was held after each presentation.

The full list of CEPF grants in Indo-Burma region and project sites can be viewed here. Source: BirdLife Internattional in Indochina

Following the plenary sessions, the participants worked together in breakout groups to identify gaps in coverage of the CEPF portfolio and for each gap, determine whether it was still a priority for CEPF funding. They also identified other opportunities for CEPF investment that were consistent with the Strategic Directions but not explicitly defined in the Ecosystem Profile. Left photos: A grantee presenting project updates. BirdLife International in Indochina


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

The results of the meetings were analysed and incorporated into a new call for proposals which was released on 16 August 2010, with a deadline of 30 September 2010. The full call for Letters of Inquiry can be viewed here in English, Khmer, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese languages. “The CEPF grant portfolio includes many important and innovative projects, which address some of the highest conservation priorities in the region”, said Jonathan C. Eames, Programme Manager of BirdLife International in Indochina. “This third and final call for proposals will be highly targeted, in order to address outstanding investment gaps.” Under this call, preference will be given to projects that demonstrate significant co-financing and a leading role for local civil society organizations. Also, applications that address priorities identified in National Tiger Recovery Programmes are particularly encouraged. Proposals are specifically encouraged to address 39 globally threatened species and eight key biodiversity areas as well as three investment priorities under Strategic Direction 3 to engage key actors in reconciling biodiversity conservation and development objectives, with a particular emphasis on the Mekong River and its major tributaries. Further information can be obtained from or §

Map of Son Tra Nature Reserve, Danang city, central Vietnam. Photo: Vu Ngoc Thanh/DLF

Proceeding the workshops, representatives from CEPF, Conservational International, BirdLife International and two Japanese journalists had a chance to take site visits to two CEPF-funded projects in central Vietnam. The first destination was Son Tra Nature Reserve near Danang city, one of two project sites where the Douc Langur Foundation is implementing various activities to safeguard a Red shanked Douc population through conservation and sustainable ecotourism.

Dr. Vu Ngoc Thanh and one of his research team member. Photo: Tran Thanh Huong-BirdLife International in Indochina

A viper in Son Tra Nature Reserve. Photo: Vu Ngoc Thanh/DLF


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

The group had an opportunity to meet Dr Vu Ngoc Thanh, Co-Project Director and his research team in the field observe two big groups of Red-shanked Douc in a single morning. The Son Tra peninsula is experiencing a period of intensive development with a series of roads that have been built to provide access to the resort development areas. Infrastructure and tourism development are major threats to the Red-shanked Douc population at Son Tra because new roads are now utilised by hunters and poachers to access the reserve. The working group also met representatives from Danang and Son Tra Forest Protection Departments to discuss the city’s development plan and its impact on the Nature Reserve and made recommendations to protect the remaining langur population. Next, the group spent one day exploring the recently established Saola Nature Reserve in Thua Thien Hue Province, central Vietnam where WWF is implementing activities to safeguard the species. More site visits to projects in will be undertaken later this year, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam. Compiled by Tran Thanh Huong/CEPF -RIT Small left: In the middle of Saola Habitat Conservation Area. Small right: CEPF working team with two rangers of the Saola Conservation Project. Photo: BirdLife International in Indochina.

Red-shanked Douc in Son Tra. Photo: Jonathan C. Eames.


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010



uly 22, 2010 - The enigmatic spoon-billed sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus is famed for its bizarre cutlery- shaped appendage and the challenges of observing it.

Sadly, it’s also known for its perplexing plunge towards extinction. It is estimated that only 120–220 pairs remain. The bird’s summer breeding grounds on the Russian Chukotskiy peninsula are inaccessible to all but a few ornithologists, and — despite occasional sightings across a vast range from India to Malaysia — the main wintering sites were unknown. Zöckler and colleagues, however, now show both what the likely threats are to the overwintering birds and how those threats might be reduced (C. Zöckler et al. Wader Study Group Bull. 117, 1–8; 2010). With no apparent sign of habitat degradation at the breeding site, Zöckler and colleagues searched for the birds’ wintering area. In January 2010, they found an estimated half of the global overwintering population in the Bay of Martaban in Myanmar. The team identified one bird that had been tagged with a leg flag on the breeding grounds in 2003. Analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes from the few, winter-grown, feathers collected when the bird was tagged showed that this individual was in the centre of the densest data cluster, implying that it was in the heart of the wintering area.

Zöckler et al. went further. On making enquiries, they found that local hunters use mist nets to catch birds for the pot: an estimated 30,000 shorebirds are killed annually in this single bay, which harbours up to 150,000 migratory shorebirds. Most of the 26 hunters from 15 villages who were interviewed were familiar with spoon-billed sandpipers, and reported regularly catching them. Paradoxically, this second discovery could be good news. Only five of the interviewees were full-time professional hunters and their main targets are much larger birds. The authors propose that incentives should be offered to the villagers to conserve the birds; village elders may then ensure that there is no hunting. Such mechanisms have worked elsewhere in Myanmar. Zöckler et al. say that, without intervention, the spoon-billed sandpiper could become extinct within 10–20 years. But now, thanks to their persistent investigation and willingness to engage with local people, it may not. The story illustrates how conservation is as much a social science as a biological one. When the two come together, there is hope for real change. Tamás Székely & William J. Sutherland NATURE|Vol 466|22 July 2010

Spoon-billed Sandpiper:

Hunting in Myanmar is the cause of the population crash A Spoon-billed Sandpiper caught by a hunter in the Bay of Martaban, Myanmar, is released by local children after intervention by the Spoon-billed Sandpiper expedition, January 2010. © Rob Robinson/BTO 9

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

Sinking deltas due to human activities ----By: James P. M. Syvitski, Albert J. Kettner, Irina Overeem, Eric W. H. Hutton, Mark T. Hannon, G. Robert Brakenridge, John Day, Charles Vörösmarty, Yoshiki Saito, Liviu Giosan and Robert J. Nicholls Nature Geosicence published online on September 20, 2009

Photo courtesy of Jonathan C. Eames



any of the world’s largest deltas are densely populated and heavily farmed. Yet many of their inhabitants are becoming increasingly vulnerable to flooding and conversions of their land to open ocean. The vulnerability is a result of sediment compaction from the removal of oil, gas and water from the delta’s underlying sediments, the trapping of sediment in reservoirs upstream and floodplain engineering in combination with rising global sea level. Here the authors present an assessment of 33 deltas chosen to represent the world’s deltas. We find that in the past decade, 85% of the deltas experienced severe flooding, resulting in the temporary submergence of 260,000 km2. It is conservatively estimated that the delta surface area vulnerable to flooding could increase by 50% under the current projected values for sea-level rise in the twenty-first century. This figure could increase if the capture of sediment 12 to prevent the growth and buffering of the deltas. Read full upstream persists and continues story.


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network and TRAFFIC Help for Forest Products Companies to Navigate a Shifting Legal Landscape Press release by TRAFFIC


ugust 23, 2010— WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) and TRAFFIC, with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade Program and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), today launched a series of meetings with suppliers of forestry products from Vietnam to discuss ways to combat timber trafficking and explain implications of laws such as the US Lacey Act. The US Lacey Act is the first law of its kind to prohibit the import, sale or trade of illegallyharvested wood and wood products into the United States. Companies importing timber products to the US will need suppliers, such as mills and manufacturers from across Asia, to understand their role in ensuring compliance with the revised regulations. To help them, WWF’s GFTN and TRAFFIC are holding a series of Legality Training Workshops across Asia this July, August and September. Three separate workshops will take place this week in Vietnam in Ha Noi, Quy Nhon and Ho Chi Minh City.

Environment Representative of US Embassy speaking at opening event ©TRAFFIC The workshops will bring together representatives from government, industry and the environmental community, to cover a range of topics including information on the amended Lacey Act, what US importers need from suppliers in Vietnam, how to help US customers demonstrate due care, relevant legislation in Vietnam, information on legal and responsible trade and training materials for staff involved in the timber trade. The US is not alone in introducing legislation to tackle the illegal timber trade; the European parliament recently voted to pass new legislation that will require companies importing and selling timber in the EU to demonstrate they have exercised “due diligence” to ensure their timber has been felled legally. The EU is also currently negotiating bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), which focus on legal timber sourcing from producing countries. “Cooperating on tackling illegal logging will help Vietnamese producers, because as demand increases, Vietnam can gain market access by increasing its supply of legal timber products,” said Francis Donovan, Mission Director

of USAID Vietnam. “The United States is committed to working with Vietnam’s producers in the supply of legal and sustainable products that meet international market standards.” “Vietnam considers the US furniture market a high priority. Supplementary articles of the Lacey Act, dated May 2008, provide challenges and also opportunities to better improve management of forests, timber import and processing, with the aim of sustaining and expanding Vietnam’s marketshare of the timber industry in the US market,” said Dr. Ha Cong Tuan, Deputy Director General Vietnam Directorate of Forestry (MARD). As new product declarations under the Lacey Act are enforced from September, a growing number of US-based forest products importers will seek assurances from their suppliers that the products they source have been legally produced. This means they must be able to demonstrate the timber has been harvested, possessed, transported, sold or exported without breaking any relevant underlying laws in the country where the tree was grown, even if it was processed in another country.

“If you are exporting to the US market, you need to understand how the Lacey Act impacts your customers in the US, who will face large fines, confiscation and imprisonment if they cannot demonstrate the wood used in making the products they import is legal,” said George White, Head of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN). “With a long-standing history in advancing responsible forestry and trade, the GFTN is well placed to help Vietnam suppliers understand this groundbreaking law, learn specific steps to demonstrate legal sourcing and most importantly, source responsibly by purchasing certified timber.” “Illegal logging and timber trade not only undermine conservation, they also lead to reduced profitability of legal trade, loss of foreign revenue and currency exchange, uncollected forest-related taxes and depleted forest resources and services,” said Chen Hin Keong, TRAFFIC’s Global Forest Trade Programme Leader. “As international legislation increases to combat the illicit trade, it will be imperative for all links in the supply chain to show that they have taken the appropriate measures to keep illegal timber out of the global marketplace.” 11

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

Vietnam: Provinces unite to protect forests


uly 5, 2010 – Forest protection activities in three neighbouring provinces in the north-west, Thai Nguyen, Bac Kan and Lang Son, have improved since a steering committees was formed to fight illegal logging at the start of the year, said the deputy head of the Forest Management Department, Nguyen Van Cuong. Cuong, whose department comes under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the provinces had dealt with 172,000 violations and reclaimed 47,000ha of forest. The three provinces contain more than 1.6 million hectares of natural land, about half of it covered with trees. The forests have high economic and environment value - and are home to rare species of timber and animals. However, the main residents are ethnic people whose livelihood depends heavily on forest resources. Many families are below the poverty line. “Many residents work for local speculators in logging and transporting trees,” Cuong said. According to the deputy head of Bac Kan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bui Van Dinh, many farmers took park in illegal logging after harvest time. “In some cases, we reclaimed hundreds of trees which were being exported through the Lang Son border gates,” he said. Dinh called for tighter co-operation with Lang Son Province. He said 80 per cent of the rare timber species in Bac Kan had already been exported. Deputy Minister Hua Duc Nhi ordered forest management departments to check the quantity of timber remaining in the forests. The ministry instructed agricultural and rural development departments to provide arable land for poor households.


Province to approve nature conservation projects


uly 5, 2010 – Plans for two conservation projects in central Quang Binh Province have been given the thumbs-up by the local People’s Committee. The committee has called for authorities to co-operate in progressing the Khe Net Nature Conservation Project and the Khe Nuoc Trong park. The committee’s response follows the presentation on Tuesday of study results on the 27-ha Khe Net area by the Forest Protection Department. Department official Pham Van But said Khe Net was one of Vietnam’s rare lowland tropical forests, containing nearly 850 tracheophyta and 300 backbone animal species. More than 40 of the plants and 60 of the animals in the area were threatened with extinction, he said. The department also presented the committee with scientific data on Khe Nuoc Trong, an area of primitive tropical forest along the border between central Quang Binh province and Laos and central Quang Tri Province’s Bac Huong Hoa Conservation area. The two areas would be the second and third nature conservation areas in the province, after Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park which was recognised in 2003 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its geographical value. ----------





BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Vietnam’s Environmental Police dig their claws into illegal big cat trade


uly 2, 2010 - Vietnam’s Environmental Police have confiscated two frozen Tigers and a frozen panther in the central province of Nghe An.

In March this year, Lao Bao Border Guard Police seized a body of a tiger (95 kg) and a black panther (27 kg) being transported across the border to be sold in Vietnam. In October 2009, Vietnam Environmental Police seized 2 frozen The animals, reportedly along with five kg of tiger carcasses weighing a total of 130kg and suspected tiger bones, were confiscated from the arrested five suspects in Hanoi. home of a 53-year old man in Dien Chau district early last week. The suspect was placed under As few as 30 wild tigers are estimated to survive in Vietnam. arrest. The confiscation resulted from a co-ordinated “If we hope to save the country’s remaining tigers effort between enforcement authorities, including and other threatened species, it will take ever increasing vigilance from authorities and a strong the recently established Environmental Police. commitment by the government to support and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, promote existing wildlife laws,” said Osborn. commended the authorities for their diligence in enforcing Vietnam’s wildlife laws. TRAFFIC is Tigers have become a global icon for species a joint programme of WWF and the International on the brink of extinction, especially during the current Chinese Year of the Tiger. With only an Union for Conservation of Nature. estimated 3,200 individuals remaining worldwide, “The Environmental Police have demonstrated wild tigers are in danger of disappearing within a once again their dedication to halting the illegal decade. trade in protected species such as tigers,” said Thomas Osborn, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s WWF and TRAFFIC are working this year to secure political commitments that will double the Greater Mekong Programme. number of tigers by the next Year of the Tiger in Despite their protection under Vietnamese and 2022. international law, tigers and panthers continue to be illegally hunted and traded across Vietnam --------and Southeast Asia for their meat, as souvenirs, Photo and news source: TRAFFIC press release. and for their bones, used in traditional medicine and to make tiger bone wine. 13

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Vietnam cracks down on illegal wildlife trade


ugust 26, 2010 - The Lam Dong Forest Protection Department (FPD) today led an enforcement campaign targeting restaurants illegally selling wildlife in Da Lat.

The campaign brought together over 100 officers from across the province in a coordinated effort against illegal wildlife networks operating in the city. Enforcement teams swept through restaurants suspected of illegally trading wildlife, searching for wildlife violations and seizing and arresting suspects along the way in the biggest coordinated campaign the province has ever seen. The campaign was developed with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), National Environmental Police, Dr Mai The Bay and with the support from the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). The campaign follows recent surveys in Da Lat city that found 44 restaurants and 33 TCM shops (representing 68% restaurants and 21% TCM shop visited) serving wildlife, at potentially very high quantities. Following the campaign, Lam Dong agencies seized over 300kg of wildlife including meat from wild pigs, civets, pangolins, porcupine, mouse deer, monitor lizard, bear paws, bamboo rats, snakes, sambar and skins from black-shanked duoc langurs, clouded leopard, short-clawed otter, serow, muntjac, leopard cat, flying squirrel, common palm civet, binturong, and small indian civet. This is the largest seizure ever made in a campaign in Lam Dong and investigations into the source of this wildlife and the trade networks supplying

FPD Rangers seize products from a restaurant. © WCS Vietnam Programme

it are underway.

will be followed up with investigations to identify and prosecute the illegal traders behind the restaurants. The future of wildlife in Vietnam hangs in the balance, but with more agencies showing a strong commitment like Lam Dong FPD, things could change for the better very quickly”

Mr Tran Thanh Binh, Head of Lam Dong FPD said: “The detection and prosecution of restaurants illegally serving wildlife is a critical step in the battle for wildlife conservation in Vietnam”. He added “The campaign today is our warning shot to illegal wildlife traders that Lam Dong province will not condone wildlife violators ------Source: WCS-Vietnam programme press release anymore.” Dr Scott Roberton, WCS Country Representative for Vietnam said “WCS commends the strong and decisive actions of Lam Dong province on tackling wildlife trade in Da Lat City and hopes these seizures


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

Laos: Conservation status of the Small Asian Mongoose


ugust 31, 2010 - Small Asian Mongoose Herpestes javanicus (É. Geoffroy SaintHilaire, 1818) is not much recorded through conventional (evergreen-forestcentred) wildlife surveys in South-east Asia, and available literature contains few records from Lao PDR. Collating records from the country reveals a wide distribution in the lowlands of its centre and south, and persistence in areas whence most other wild mammals (other than murids and bats) have been eradicated, including extensive farmland and suburban areas. Records from largely natural habitats are in or adjacent to deciduous biomes: the species is indeed rare in or absent from evergreen forests, hence the paucity of records during conventional survey. It evidently survives through rather evasive behaviour, and while populations may be much below carrying capacity, the paucity of records does not refl ect a cause for conservation concern. It remains unclear whether the species inhabits the extensive hill and mountain ranges of Lao PDR. Read full paper. ------------Source: Duckworth, J.D; Timmins, R.J.; and Tizard, T. (2010): Conservation status of Small Asian Mongoose Herpestes javanicus (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1818)(Mammallia: Carnivora: Herpestidae) in Lao PDR. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 58(2): 403–410 . National University of Singapore


Does the fishing cat inhabit Laos?


pring 2010 - No fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus record from Laos is supported by specimen or photograph. Historical reports derive only from works replete with major errors. Recent reports based only on tracks and/or villagers’ reports cannot be assessed for reliability. Of three recent field sightings, one was probably a leopard cat P. bengalensis, one was seen too poorly for identification, but one was seen well and characters noted fit fishing cat. It was in a fast river through degraded hill evergreen forest. This habitat may be atypical for the species and the site may be unusually far inland: a critical review of South-east Asian distribution is needed. Typical 1990s-2000s mammal surveys in Laos were probably unsuited to detecting fishing cat: Lao status will remain unclear pending targeted survey. Further claims of this cat in Laos – indeed, inland South-east Asia – require documentation of evidence for identification. Read full paper. ------Source: Duckworth, J.W., Stones, T., Tizard, R., Watson, S., Wolstencroft, J.(2010) Does the fishing cat inhabit Laos? CATnews No. 52.


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


uly 06, 2010 - Protected forests in Champassak importance of forestry protection. province’s Pakxong district continue to be plundered for timber despite authorities announcing a ban on Champassak province has three national protected logging in these areas, according to local residents. areas including Dong Huasao, Xepien and Xiengthong Mountain, covering an area of 328,000 hectares. The villagers reported their concerns on illegal logging through a telephone hotline during the National An additional provincial protected area stretches Assembly session which ended in Vientiane last week. almost 100,000 hectares as allocated by the provincial authority, but forestry encroachment is still widely Callers stated that even though the protected areas were reported. closed to logging, the trade persisted and seemed to be on the increase. Champassak is aiming to raise forest coverage to 60 percent in 2010 and 70 percent in 2020, from the present Deputy Director of Champassak provincial Agriculture total of 57 percent. and Forestry Department, Mr Khamlek Bounyavong, responded to public concerns by saying that while Forestry experts have commented that while the illegal logging was still reported, the situation was not province and country as a whole can restore forests to as serious as in previous years. 70 percent of Laos’s total land area by 2020, it would not be as dense as in 1940, when the country’s forest He noted that some villagers had converted forestry cover was reported to be 70 percent. areas for crop production and coffee plantations without approval from local authorities. The experts noted that many mature trees had been felled in illegal logging activities and as a result of some “I don’t think that people cut down trees in Pakxong large development projects in forestry-dense areas, and for commercial purposes. What we found is that some would take a long time to be replaced. villagers clear forest to plant crops,” he said. The Lao government says forests are critically important Parts of Pakxong district, located on the fertile, ancient to socio-economic development and poverty reduction volcanic Bolavens Plateau, come under the designated in rural areas. Deforestation not only hits the livelihoods Dong Huasao and Xepien national protected areas, of rural farmers; reduced evaporation and soil runoff with catchments feeding several rivers in the province. from cleared areas also affects river catchments, with Farmland in Pakxong district is allocated for crop negative impacts on hydropower development projects. production, and industrial plantations such as rubber are not allowed in the district, according to Mr Khamlek. Most sectors are in agreement that officials must work harder and more sincerely to better manage forests as He said the provincial authorities had seen the need to well as encouraging the public to be the eyes and ears protect the forests in Pakxong by working closely with of the government and help protect precious resources district and village authorities to run campaigns on the for younger generations.


Laos: Champassak forests under threat despite logging ban

Photo by Jonathan C. Eames Source: 16

regional news

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

First record of Eastern grass owl Tyto longimembris in Cambodia


by Markus Handschuh, Isadora Angarita-Martinez and Sang Mony

n 20th December 2007, at ‘Wat Prohoot’ in Chikraeng District, Siem Reap Province, central Cambodia (approx. UTM P48 0442000E, 1440000N), we flushed two Eastern grass owls Tyto longimembris from the ground in open, seasonally flooded grassland (Fig. 1). One of the birds was flushed from an active nest and the other individual from a roosting site located c. 25 m from the nest. These observations represent both the first record and first breeding record of the Eastern grass owl in Cambodia. At first glance the birds resembled the barn owl Tyto alba. The first individual (Fig. 2), however, had a mostly dark upper side (crown to rump uniformly medium brown; median, greater and primary coverts dark brown with some irregular and diffuse, slightly paler patches; primaries and secondaries golden-brown with dark brown bars and marks; primaries with blackish tips above and below), in sharp contrast to the pure white face, pale underside (pale brown breast and snowy-white belly), white upper tail coverts, whitish leading edge of the wing, white underwing (with few dark marks, and darkbarred primaries and secondaries), and whitish to pale golden-brown, dark-barred upper tail. The second individual looked similar, differing only in details: it had an obvious golden-buffish patch on the back, the primaries and secondaries appeared paler overall, and the wing coverts were less extensively dark brown, forming a narrower dark band on the upper wing that contrasted both with a broad white band on the leading edge of the wing and the overall paler tail feathers; so, overall, this bird showed more contrast on its upper side. On its underside, some irregularly scattered dark spots were

visible. Both birds had very long legs, extending well beyond the tip of the tail in level flight (see Fig. 2) and also obvious when the birds hovered briefly with extended legs (Fig. 3, showing the second individual) before dropping into the grass. Both birds were in primary moult. The nest was located on dry ground and thus differed to two nests found by Kasorndorkbua et al. (2008) in Thailand, in dense patches of thick grasses floating on the surface of a swamp with 30-50 cm deep water. The nest was hidden in a cavity formed by c. 1 m tall, dense grass. The actual nest ‘cup’ was a simple pad on the ground (no nesting material had been brought in by the birds, but rather the existing grass trampled down) with a c. 1 m long, semi-covered entrance tunnel (Fig. 4). On 20th December, the nest contained five white eggs. On 25th December (when two birds, presumably a male and a female, were flushed), however, it contained only four eggs, two of which were broken (largely dried out already, but with embryos at an early stage of development still recognisable). One was outside the nest ‘cup’, and the remaining two intact eggs were cold (Fig. 5). On 3rd January 2008, the nest was empty and abandoned. Thirteen pellets, collected from the nest and the nearby roosting site, mainly contained skulls, bones, and hair of rat-sized rodents, but also of some small passerine birds (according to bill shape, both insectivores and seed-eaters). This is in accordance with the fi ndings of Kasorndorkbua et al. (2008) in Thailand (mainly murid rodents) and Lin et al. (2007) in southern Taiwan (95% mammals, mainly rats, and 5% birds).

The Eastern grass owl may be a new breeding bird in this part of the Tonle Sap floodplain. Wat Prohoot is a well visited birdwatching site and the wider area has been the location of bird surveys since 1999 (Goes et al., 2001) and an intensive field study on Bengal florican Houbaropsis bengalensis since 2002 by several scientists with excellent general ornithological skills (Davidson, 2004; Gray et al., 2007a; Gray, 2008). Moreover, during conversations with local people, who have a generally good knowledge of the grasslands and their birds, it came to light that they did not know this Tyto owl, which roosts and nests in the open grassland, while the barn owl is well known. The record presented here, as well as recent breeding records by Kasorndorkbua et al. (2008) in northern Thailand, may be indicative of a current range extension of the Eastern grass owl in Indochina, with the birds moving further inland from the species’ previously known breeding range that consists of a band along the coast of Myanmar in the West and, geographically isolated, a band along the coast of southeastern China to southern Vietnam in the East (see distribution map in del Hoyo et al., 1999). If true, such movements may be caused by large-scale habitat alterations due to the expansion and intensifi cation of agriculture in traditional breeding areas, such as the Mekong Delta.

can be found hunting in the same habitat (M. Handschuh, pers. obs.). Moreover, the aforementioned fieldwork on the Bengal florican in the grasslands of the outer Tonle Sap floodplain, where the nest was located, does not usually start until later in the dry season, by which time the owls may have finished nesting and moved to wetter areas in the inner floodplain, which are only rarely visited by observers.

Independent of the scenario, the Eastern grass owl is without a doubt a rare breeding species in the Tonle Sap fl oodplain that is likely to be threatened by the rapid expansion of agroindustrial plantations and the large scale conversion of grasslands into dry season rice cultivation, and the associated construction of dams and ditches that alter the hydrology and usage patterns by local communities, and thus the vegetation composition of surrounding grasslands (see Gray et al. 2007b, Gray, 2008. ------Source: M. Handschuh et al. First record of Eastern grass owl Tyto longimembris in It is also conceivable that the Eastern grass owl Cambodia. Cambodian Journal of Natural is a traditional breeding bird of the Tonle Sap History 2010 (1) 18-21. floodplain, but has merely been overlooked. The species is little known and rarely observed, and may be under-recorded due to its nocturnal Photo: Eastern grass owl. Note the long legs. habits. Furthermore, it may be easily confused © O. Rajchl. with the barn owl, which at least in Cambodia, 17

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Cambodia: Forest official raises alarm on mine plan


uly 14, 2010 - A Forestry Administration official said yesterday that a massive titanium mine proposed for Koh Kong province would threaten natural resources and local livelihoods and vowed to pass on his concerns to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

the REDD scheme, which Wildlife Alliance estimates could bring between US$48 million and $85 million of revenue to Cambodia over the next 30 years.

“If this mine happens, the REDD project will not happen,” Vann Sophana said. “The REDD project is very important because it protects natural resources Vann Sophana, in charge of the Forestry while selling credits to developed industries – it is an Administration’s Coastal Inspectorate, met with industry with no smoke.” villagers in Thma Bang district who stand to be affected by the mine, which the NGO Wildlife During her presentation to villagers, Gauntlett said Alliance has said would cover 15,000 to 20,000 the United Khmer Group, which has reportedly hectares. obtained one of two required permits for the project, had informed her organisation that Chinese On Monday, Wildlife Alliance Country Director companies planned to build another three mines Suwanna Gauntlett said the mine would threaten covering 100,000 hectares of nearby forest if the first 144,000 hectares of protected forest in the district, as mine proved successful. well as ecotourism projects that support 150 families in Chi Pat commune. Phorn Thou, representative of the United Khmer Group, said yesterday that his company had no She also said the mine would doom plans to intention of harming any villagers in the area. implement a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme that NGOs “We want to reduce the poverty in that area, and we and officials had been hoping to launch in 2011. The want to help them by giving them jobs,” he said. scheme allows polluting companies in developed “Our goal is Khmer helping Khmer.” countries to offset their carbon emissions by paying developing countries to protect forests. Chi Pat commune chief Uy Iaiy and the chiefs of four separate villages were unified in their opposition to After yesterday’s meeting, Vann Sophana indicated the mine. “With the mining company, I’m not sure if that he shared these concerns. villagers can get a job there or not,” said Hot Pov, the chief of Teuk Laork village. “Firstly, the area is overlapping with forests protected by Sub-decree No 65 of the Royal Government of Cambodia,” he said, and added that the project ------------seemed to be in conflict with a government resolution S o u r c e : h t t p : / / w w w. p h n o m p e n h p o s t . c o m / i n d e x . php/2010071440468/National-news/forest-official-raisesdeclaring that mining poses a serious threat to forest alarm-on-mine-plan.html coverage. He also expressed concern about the potential loss of


Photos by Nguyen The Luyen/ BirdLife International in Indochina 18 25

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Myanmar creates world’s largest tiger reserve, aiding many endangered South-east Asian species ----Source: myanmar.html

Photo: Neel Gogate


ugust 4, 2010 - Myanmar has announced that the Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve will is the head of the cat-conservation group Panthera and leader of the first biological expedition be nearly tripled in size, making the protected area the largest tiger reserve in the into Hukaung Valley in 1997. During this expedition Rabinowitz discovered a new mammal: world. Spanning 17,477 square kilometers (6,748 square miles), the newly expanded the leaf deer, the second smallest deer in the world. park is approximately the size of Kuwait and larger than the US state of Connecticut. “The strides we made in 2004 were groundbreaking,” he continued, “but protecting this entire After years of illegal hunting and a decline in prey the reserve may hold as few as 50 tigers, valley to ensure tigers are able to live and roam freely is a game changer. This reserve is one yet experts hope with protection the population could bounce back. Although tigers are the of the most important stretches of tiger habitat in the world, and I am thrilled that the people star, the park holds many other species including some 370 bird species. and government of Myanmar understand the importance of preserving it.” Besides the tiger, which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the area contains a number of threatened species, including the Indo-Chinese leopard (Near Threatened), clouded leopard (Vulnerable), Malayan sun bear (Vulnerable), Himalayan black bear (Vulnerable), sambar deer (Vulnerable), a wild bovine known as the gaur (Vulnerable), Asian elephants (Endangered), and the Rufous-necked hornbill (Vulnerable).

The valley is home to the Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), one of six surviving subspecies of tiger (three have gone extinct—all in the Twentieth Century). Experts are unsure just how many of this subspecies survive: estimates range from a low of 350 to a high of 2,500. Tigers have been decimated by poaching for traditional Chinese medicines, habitat loss, prey declines, and human-predator conflict. Today 3,000 to 5,000 tigers survive in the wild. Suitable habitat for the world’s biggest cat has declined by 41 percent in the last decade “I have dreamt of this day for many years,” said Alan Rabinowitz in a press release. Rabinowitz alone. 19

iba news

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Aquaculture development not slowed by Ramsar designation at Xuan Thuy National Park, Vietnam

emote sensing data have been proposed as a potential tool for monitoring environmental treaties. However, to date, satellite images have been used primarily for visualization, but not for systematic monitoring of treaty compliance. In this 1 paper , the authors present a methodology to operationalise the use of satellite imagery to assess the impact of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The approach uses time series analysis of landscape pattern metrics to assess land cover conditions before and after designation of Ramsar status to monitor compliance with the Convention (Figure 1.). The authors apply the methodology to two case studies in Vietnam and evaluate the success of Ramsar using four metrics: (1) total mangrove extent; (2) mangrove fragmentation; (3) mangrove density; and (4) aquaculture extent. Results indicate that the Ramsar Convention did not slow the development of aquaculture in the region, but total mangrove extent has remained relatively constant, primarily due to replanting efforts. Yet despite these restoration efforts, the mangroves have become fragmented and survival rates for replanting efforts are low. The methodology is cost effective and especially useful to evaluate Ramsar sites that rely mainly on self-reporting methods and where third parties are not actively involved in the monitoring process. Finally, the case study presented in this paper demonstrates that with the appropriate satellite record, in situ measurements and field observations, remote sensing is a promising technology that can help monitor compliance with international environmental agreements. ------Source: 1. Seto, K. C. and Fragkias, M (2007) Mangrove conversion and aquaculture development in Vietnam: A remote sensing-based approach ------for evaluating the Ramsar Source: Convention on Wetlands. Global Environmental Change 17: 486–500.


Figure 1. False colour composites of Xuan Thuy National Park, 1975–2002 (Landsat TM 432, RGB). Areas shown in red are vegetated. Fragmentation of the mangroves can 12 12 with extensive and more evident patterns of aquaculture be detected as early as 1986, ponds by 1992.

Siamese crocodile Crocodylus siamensis Š L. Bruce Kekule


Rarest of the rare

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

River of Giants

River Giants of

Giant Fish of the Mekong

Giant sheatfish, Wallago attu. © Ursula Bes. The River of Giants: Giant Fish of the Mekong report can be downloaded at: High-quality footage of the Mekong River and Mekong giant catfish can be downloaded at


Mekong dams threaten rare giant fish Press release by WWF Greater Mekong

uly 28, 2010 - Wild populations of the iconic River Commission advise on whether to approve its Mekong giant catfish will be driven to extinction if construction. hydropower dams planned for the Mekong River go ahead, says a new report by WWF. “More giant fish live in the Mekong than any other river on Earth,” said Ms Dang Thuy Trang, Mekong River The report, River of Giants: Giant Fish of the Mekong, Ecoregion Coordinator for the WWF Greater Mekong profiles four giant fish living in the Mekong that rank Programme. “Currently, the Lower Mekong remains within the top 10 largest freshwater fish on the planet. At free-flowing, which presents a rare opportunity for the half the length of a bus and weighing up to 600kgs, the conservation of these species. But the clock is ticking.” Mekong River’s Giant freshwater stingray is the world’s largest freshwater fish. The critically endangered and The other Mekong giant fish featured in the report culturally fabled Mekong giant catfish ranks third at up are the Dog-eating catfish, named because it has been to 3 metres in length and 350kgs. caught using dog meat as bait, and the Giant barb, the national fish of Cambodia and largest barb in the world. “A fish the size of a Mekong giant catfish, simply will At 300kgs each, these fish tie for fifth place on the global not be able to swim across a large barrier like a dam top ten. to reach its spawning grounds upstream,” said Roger Mollot, Freshwater Biologist for WWF Laos. “This However, the impacts of lower Mekong River mainstream would lead to the collapse of the wild population of this dams are not restricted to these Mekong giants, they iconic species.” would also exacerbate the impacts of climate change on the Mekong River Delta, one of the world’s most Current scientific information suggests the Mekong giant productive regions for fisheries and agriculture. catfish migrate from the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia up the Mekong River to spawn in northern Thailand Building the Sayabouly dam would reduce sediment and Laos. Any dam built on the lower Mekong River flowing downstream to the Mekong River Delta, mainstream will block this migration route. increasing the vulnerability of this area to the impacts of climate change like sea level rise. The hydropower dam planned on the Mekong River 12 at Sayabouly Province, northern Laos, is a threat to WWF supports a delay in the approval of the mainstream the survival of the wild population of Mekong giant dams, including the Sayabouly dam, to ensure a catfish. The Sayabouly dam is the first lower Mekong comprehensive understanding of all the positive and River mainstream dam to enter a critical stage of negative impacts of their construction and operation. assessment before member countries of the Mekong 21


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

rarest of the rare

Giant pangasius (dog-eating catfish) Pangasius sanitwongsei. Photo by Jean-Francois Helias

Giant barb Catlocarpio siamensis. Photo by Zeb Hogan/WWF-Canon

Giant freshwater stingray Himantura chaophraya. Photo by Zeb Hogan/WWF-Canon

Mekong giant catfish Pangasianodon gigas. Photo by Suthep Kritsanavarin/WWF-Canon 22

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

Project updates PROJECT UPDATeS


ew small grant

In this quarter, the Youth for Peace and Development (YPD)-Biodiversity Conservation Program received a small grant to conserve the Critically Endangered Mekong Giant Catfish and other giant freshwater fish species in Ankorban and Rorkakoy Commune, Korng Meas District, Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia, by engaging communities in conservation activities, raising awareness and education of relevant laws, developing conservation-related capacity and conducting participatory local assessment of catch and release information.

New large grant Nearly US$ 299,000 has been granted to the University of Canterbury (www.civil. for the two-year project to demonstrate and quantify the potential impacts of large-scale disruptions to hydrological cycles of the Mekong River and its major tributaries under currently proposed development scenarios. Next steps would be positively influence the decision-making process that is currently underway regarding hydropower development, through direct engagement with key stakeholders in the formulation of alternative development scenarios to reduce impacts on biodiversity and natural systems. Up to date, after over two years into a five-year program of CEPF investment in the IndoBurma Hotspot, 26 large grants and 36 small grants have been made in the region. In total, more than $US 6.2 million of grants has now been contracted. List of funded projects and map of project sites is available here. New call for Letters of Inquiry (LoIs) On 16 August 2010, the third call for proposals was released with a deadline of 30 September 2010. This call for LoIs covers the four countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam, and addresses gaps in the current CEPF investment portfolio. Under this call, preference will be given to projects that demonstrate significant co-financing and a leading role for local civil society organizations. Also, applications that address priorities identified in National Tiger Recovery Programmes are particularly encouraged. Read full press release and call for LoIs here.

CEPF-RIT Updates The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund ( is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. CEPF began a $9.5 million five year investment plan in Indochina in July 2008, in partnershipwith BirdLife International, who provide the Regional Implementation Team ( As the RIT in Indochina, BirdLife International will: raise awareness of CEPF; solicit grant applications and assist organisations to make applications; review applications; give small grants and jointly make decisions with CEPF on large grants; and monitor and evaluate progress with the investment strategy.

Project updates in Cambodia The University of East Anglia ( “Measuring the Effectiveness of Conservation Interventions for White-Shouldered Ibis in Cambodia” In August, the University of East Anglia brought together a group of conservationists for a coordinated survey of 37 roost sites across Cambodia. A record-breaking 428 White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni has been discovered in Cambodia, making the known global population much larger than previously thought. With so many birds remaining in the wild the chances of conservation success are greatly improved – welcome news for this Critically Endangered bird species. Read full story here.

Photo: Hugh Wright/UEA


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Wildlife Alliance ( “Improving Wildlife Law Enforcement in Cambodia to Protect CEPF Priority Species from Overexploitation and Illegal Wildlife Trade” With support from CEPF, Wildlife Alliance seeks to reduce poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia by maximizing coordination of relevant agencies and increase capacity of on the ground law enforcement. This project has made substantial progress in efforts to assist the Royal Government of Cambodia in establishing the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN WEN).

Photo: Wildlife Alliance

A key achievement is the formation and official recognition of the CambodianWEN Coordination Unit (CWCU) in

May 2010. Signed by the Director General of the Forestry Administration, Decision No. 766 RP.NNP assigns the CWCU to be the national and international focal point for intelligence and information concerning the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia. Staffed with four officials from Cambodia’s Forestry Administration, the CWCU will receive and analyse information concerning wildlife crime. The establishment of the CWCU promises to improve coordination between relevant national agencies, such as the police, customs, the military, and the courts in Cambodia, and international partners, such as the ASEAN-WEN Program Coordination Unit and neighbouring country coordinating units. The institutionalization of the CWCU, an office dedicated to combating the wildlife trade, is an important long-term step in suppressing the illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. On August 13, the Cambodian-WEN Inter-Agency workshop in Phnom Penh officially launched the CWCU bringing together key government agencies officials to introduce the CWCU, highlight the devastating effects of the illegal wildlife trade and discuss ways that different agencies can work together toward this common goal. His Excellency Uk Sokhonn, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Cambodia, presided over this event, which included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Forestry Administration, the Ministry of Environment, Customs and Excise, the Anti-Economic Police, the Royal Gendarmerie of Cambodia, and the Appeals Court, as well as donors, NGOs, ASEAN–WEN representatives and delegates from the United States, Vietnam, and Thailand.

CEPF-RIT Updates Wildlife Conservation Society ( “Food provision to Cambodia’s Vultures.” In the midst of what has become known as the Asian Vulture Crisis, the vultures of Cambodia are increasing in number, providing a beacon of hope for three of the most threatened species, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society and other members of the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. Researchers report that record numbers of vultures have been counted in Cambodia’s annual vulture census, with 296 birds of three species found at multiple sites across the Northern and Eastern Plains of Cambodia by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project, a partnership of conservationists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Full story can be read here.

Project update in Laos ElefantAsia ( “Securing and protecting Asian elephant populations in Laos through the microchipping of core populations.” Laos is often the forgotten range State of the Asian elephant. Home to an estimated 1,000 – 1,200 elephants, Laos holds Indochina’s largest remaining elephant population. Of the remaining elephants in Laos, nearly half of these are domesticated. Unlike wild elephant populations, thanks to ElefantAsia’s registration program ElefantAsia knows the age, gender and location of an approximate 85% of all domesticated elephants in Laos. Registering all domesticated elephants in Laos is a government requirement, and a project that has been ongoing with ElefantAsia for nearly five years. As part of the registration program ElefantAsia now undertakes microchipping in order to further benefit Lao elephant conservation and elephant care.

Microchipping an elephant. Photo: ElefantAsia

A successful birth. Photo: ElefantAsia


Project updates PROJECT UPDATeS

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

CEPF-RIT Updates The microchipping of all domesticated elephants and formation of Lao’s first national elephant database is vital for greater conservation management outcomes. ElefantAsia will be able to perform robust population viability analysis and share information with other Asian elephant range states, donors and the scientific community. All these outcomes aim to benefit both wild and domesticated elephant populations in Laos.

Project updates in Vietnam Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies ( “Identifying Priority Populations and Reviewing Current Known Distributions for Threatened Bat and Turtle Species in Northern and Central Vietnam” Commencing in January 2010, the first bat field survey was carried out in Pu Mat National Park, central Vietnam. The team found 24 species during the survey with records of two species, the Greater False Vampire Bat – Megaderma lyra – and the Harlequin Bat – Scotomanes ornatus, new to the area. The results reassert that Pu Mat National Park is a regional centre of bat diversity. Meeting with local people to introduce elephant microchipping programme. Photo: ElefantAsia

ElefantAsia’s microchip project endeavours to increase domesticated elephant birth rates while decreasing the risk of capture from the wild. Microchipping endeavours to remove paper registration duplication, prevents registration forgery and provides greater transparency for elephant ownership and origin. Domesticated elephant information including microchip numbers are entered into ElefantAsia’s newly created national elephant database. This allows ElefantAsia to identify and match potential breeding partners to increase reproduction rates. To date ElefantAsia has microchipped 200 elephants and entered all elephant details and medical reports into the database. It is expected that microchipping the majority of Lao’s entire domesticated elephant population will take an approximate two years, with an additional year to reach elephants working in extremely remote regions of Laos. Once achieved, it could be considered that any domesticated elephants with an unclear provenance may have been illegally captured.

The Greater False Vampire Bat and the Harlequin Bat both new to Pu Mat National Park. Photo: CRES

For turtle work, the survey team conducted four interview surveys plus one done previously to gather information on turtle population status at five protected areas in northern and north central Vietnam. These protected areas include Tay Con Linh and Pu Huong Nature Reserves and Ba Be, Vu Quang, and Pu Mat National Parks. Almost 450 interviews were carried out with local people in these areas. Initial findings indicate that the protected areas contain a high level of turtle diversity. Pu Mat National Park has the highest number of species of 15 and Ba Be has the lowest of seven. During the interviews, the team identified 15 species with two critically endangered, nine endangered, and three vulnerable under IUCN listing. 25

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


CEPF-RIT Updates Centre for Water Resource Conservation and Development ( “Conservation of Aquatic Resources in Northern Vietnam through Promotion of Community Co-Management ”

They also found that the Indochinese Box Turtle, Cuora galbinifrons, is most likely still present in Tay Con Linh, Pu Mat, Pu Huong, Vu Quang, while the Wattle-necked Softshell Turtle, Palea steindachneri, probably occur in Ba Be. Both of them are CEPF priority species. In June, their first field survey in Pu Mat confirms the presence of the Four-eyed Turtle, Sacalia quadriocellata, another CEPF priority species. At the moment, the team is conducting turtle interviews in Ngoc Son-Ngo Luong Nature Reserve in collaboration with the Foundation for the Social Promotion of Culture, Spain. Samples of turtles collected in the recent surveys. Photo: CRES

Up to date, the two first activities of the project have been already completed. The launching was organised in Na Hang town on 2nd July to introduce the project with representatives of relevant agencies, local authorities at provincial, district, and commune levels, as well as fishing groups. So far, the project has received strong support from local authorities and communities. A task force of nine members was set up in the meeting. Delegating for local communities to choose and build the model, the force is in charge of facilitating regulations for the co-management model and mobilising the model application at project site. They also become a vanguard force of changing communities’ behaviour towards environment. On two days of 12 and 13 August, a training course on “Methods to build village regulations for aquatic resource conservation and exploration at inland water areas” was organised to enhance knowledge and ability of the task force group to build up the comanagement model and village regulations, and update legal documents. In company with project officers and the training expert, the group has drawn up a regulation draft therein. A survey on socioeconomic status of fishery households will be carried out in Na Hang town in late August 2010. Then, the task force group is going to experience a seven-day exchange visit in Hue City and Tam Giang lagoon, central Vietnam from 5th to 11th September 2010. Education for Nature-Vietnam ( “Strengthening Public Participation in Tackling the Wildlife Trade in Vietnam” In addition to revised training program and incentive scheme for better recruitment and activeness encouragement amongst volunteers, Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) is also working to establish volunteer clubs throughout major cities in Vietnam. In the last two months, three New volunteer club established in Hue. Photo: ENV


Project updates PROJECT UPDATeS

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

local Wildlife Protection Clubs in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Da Nang were established. The clubs are locally run and receive support in the way of training, resources, and assistance based on the activeness of their members. ENV also meets regularly with the club members and provides the leaders monthly lists of business establishments requiring compliance monitoring. Local clubs are part of ENV’s new initiative to ensure better local coordination of volunteers in their wildlife crime monitoring and survey tasks.

CEPF-RIT Updates Small photos: Cat Ba langurs. Photo: Joerg Adler. Large photo: The new assistant took part in boat patrol. Photo: Pieter Leverlink


What is compliance monitoring? Compliance monitoring is a vital part of ENV’s success in stamping out wildlife crime. After a violation has been reported to the ENV Wildlife Crime Unit, the case officer responsible for the region will initiate a response which varies between contacting the business owner and securing voluntary compliance with the law to sending warning letters, coordinating a law enforcement response, or taking the issue up much higher in the provincial government. After a response is complete, it is necessary to check the business establishment several more times to ensure that the owner does not continue to violate the law. Informants and volunteers are essential in conducting follow up “compliance” monitoring to determine if the owner is in compliance with the law or if additional action is necessary. Westfälischer Zoologischer Garten Münster GmbH: “Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project” The Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project ( is a project of Münster Zoo and the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP), both Germany, and was started in 2000, in close cooperation with Vietnamese authorities. The aim of the project is to conserve the critically endangered Cat Ba langur, Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus, and the overall biodiversity of the Cat Ba Archipelago.

the relationship with Vietnamese authorities, build the capacity of Cat Ba National Park and increase the efficiency of protection work of National Park rangers. Every month extra boat patrols increase the efficiency of protection work of National Park rangers. Every month National Park rangers are financed, to increase the protection status of the Cat Ba langur in certain areas and the threatened and sensitive coastline inside the Cat Ba National Park. The CBLCP organised a law training for 25 rangers of the National Park and three district rangers of the Forest Protection Department from 6th to 9th of April.

Under CEPF funding, 2010-2012, the Cat Langur Conservation Project (CBLCP) is able to increase communication and strengthen

A law training for local rangers. Photo: CBLCP


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

In April, the CBLCP welcomed a new project assistant, who is working as a link between the CBLCP and the main station of the ranger force of the Park. He will support the main station of the ranger force with the analysis and use of GPS data. GPS devices have been purchased accordingly and a training course for use of GPS devices by rangers of the National Park will soon be held. Once trained, the rangers will start using the GPS devices on every patrol to identify violation hotspots and to be able to improve efficiency. Wildlife Conservation Society- Vietnam Programme (www.wcs. org): “Building Awareness and Capacity to reduce the Illegal Cross-Border Trade Of Wildlife From Vietnam To China” In the second half of August, WCS had meetings with law enforcement agencies in Quang Ninh and Mong Cai Provinces to review the three basic training courses held in April and May 2010 for the provincial law enforcement officers. On this occasion, WCS also presented the plan of doing more advanced trainings in early November 2010. Another activity is in progress is WCS are preparing the Situation Analysis Report which focuses on the illegal cross-border trade of wildlife from Vietnam to China. This report is expected to publish in this September. Under another project carried out by the same above organisation “Leverage support from Vietnamese corporate sector to reduce illegal consumption of protected threatened species,” in the next few months, WCS are going to organise meetings with Vietnamese businesses to identify the most appropriate mechanisms for communicating with their staff and seeking their inputs on the planned activities. Then WCS and businesses will do some seminars and briefing for senior company staff which involve the participation of some guest speakers (e.g. ambassadors, visiting foreign diplomats, celebrities and international companies). Those events are expected to raise the awareness level of business staff about wildlife conservation by at least 50% from the baseline measured at the start of the project.

project updates

CEPF-RIT Updates

World Wide Fund for Nature ( “Sustainable and Village Patrol Teams (VPT) are being planned and will be Community-Based Conservation of the Priority Population conducted soon by the end of September to develop the ecoof Grey-shanked Douc ” tourism and assessment once VPT draws out the picture of conservation. With CEPF funding, WWF is trying to document the Greyshanked Douc Langur population and prompt sustainable community based tourism. The first rapid training and survey World Wide Fund for Nature: Safeguarding the Saola within was started early in July. Together with experts from the the Species’ Priority Landscape in Vietnam American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), Vietnamese primatologists and 12 rangers in Quang Nam Forest Protection The project received official approval by the Provincial People’s Department recorded five groups of around 50 individuals of Committees of Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue Provinces in Douc in an area of 20 km2. The second monitoring survey being July. It gave a good signal of commitment of the Government conducted in August aims to establish a long term monitoring in Saola protection. WWF was successful in employing a good protected areas officer, who has much experience in training of snare removal for rangers. WWF has sent him to Cambodia for participation in a 10 day training course to learn about the new methods of Saola snare removal. In collaboration with Saola Darwin project, a number of snare removal phrases were carried out by protect area rangers under supervision of the protect area officer. The Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) used to measure progress towards achievements of impacts and outcomes set in the portfolio level under the biodiversity in Saola Nature Reserves is under way to be finished in the next two weeks.

Map of Que Phuoc commune, Quang Nam Province where surveys were taken. Photo: WWF

Ranger team to remove snares in the Saola Habitat Conservation Area. Photo: WWF

system under these areas by Vietnamese primatologists and Quang Nam rangers. Other two big groups were recorded with 30 individuals. In this monitoring system, 10 transects of Douc monitoring were established with two kilometres long per each average transect. AMNH is committed to keep fund for this raining season monitoring and hope that they are able to search for other funds for long term monitoring for evaluation on the difference of Douc population in the near future in order to find the conservation solution. On the other hand, the eco-tourism 28

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

project news

Local people with Asian Giant Softshell Turtle in Cambodia. Photo: Conservation International

CEPF-RIT Updates nine nests on five beaches, and this year with CEPF support and increased education in local communities and schools the team protected twenty-one nests on seven beaches. In total this year, over 300 hatchling turtles were released that would otherwise have been lost to the wild population through consumption while they were still in the egg stage. They plan to build on this success by developing plans for a headstarting facility and an assurance colony at a pagoda near the Mekong river.

Regional project updates

surveys in the Tonle Sap Lake to support plans to include the yellow-headed temple turtle Heosemys annandalii as a priority species for Conservation International (www. conservation in the lake. They recorded adults “Research and and juveniles within their survey site, and will Conservation Action for Tortoises and include conservation of the species within Freshwater Turtles in Indochina.” conservation agreements with local floating The turtle conservation team from Conservation communities. International has been busy conducting interviews and surveys aiming to locate the The CI team has also initiated work to assess the critically endangered Indochinese box turtle values of the Tonle Sap’s flooded forests and fish Cuora picturata in Cambodia. As yet, the team sanctuaries. This supports a policy review of the have had no success, although they found five fish sanctuary system to assess their efficiency other IUCN Red-listed turtle species during and to potentially expand them into adjacent their surveys. They plan one last survey of the flooded forests, which would support turtle montane forests of Virachey National Park, conservation. The team also conducted a very although the challenging logistics of this survey successful Pelochelys cantorii nest protection program on the Mekong River in early 2010. will test their field skills to the limit. In 2008, CI supported the conservation of three The team has also conducted interviews and nests on two beaches, in 2009 the team conserved

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (http:// Freshwater Biodiversity Assessments in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot: Fishes, Molluscs, Odonates and Plants There is a great concentration of species found in the freshwaters of the Indo-Burma region. This, coupled with the essential ecosystem services that are supplied to humanity by these freshwaters and their biodiversity, and the increasing threats to the ecosystems, indicate the importance and urgency of this project. The aim is to provide resources that are essential for guiding decisions on the conservation and sustainable management of freshwater biodiversity in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. It will fill the information gap that currently impairs conservation planning in the area by implementing comprehensive assessments of the freshwater biodiversity and detailed evaluations of their distribution, ecology, and extinction risk.

The project will assess the global conservation status and map distributions of all species of freshwater fishes, molluscs, and dragonflies and damselflies, and selected families of aquatic plants within the Indo-Burma region. The project area includes the catchments of the following rivers; Salween Mae Klong, Mekong, Chao Phraya, Hong, and Da, as well as coastal basins. Assessments are underway for plants, molluscs and fishes, but the project has found it difficult to identify suitable plant experts, and the review workshop for the species assessments has been deferred until early 2011, with the outputs available in mid2011 through a project report and on the IUCN Red List.

Threat mapping – deforestation and siltation. IUCN (1)

12 It is important that the conservation assessments are informed by the best available information on current and future threats to the species and their environment. Participants in the training workshop in late 2009 undertook a threat mapping exercise, covering key threats such as 29

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

project news

CEPF-RIT Updates

The final report is expected to be delivered to the Mekong River Commission in September. Given the importance of the SEA report in understanding the potential impacts of the mainstream dams on the ecology of the Mekong basin and making an informed decision regarding the future of the river, International Rivers believes (1) Experts from the Indo-Burma region undertook a threat-mapping public consultations should be organized around the report within exercise at the Red List training workshop held in Phnom Penh, each country. Read full article. hydroelectric dams, overfishing, deforestation, and pollution. The project coordinators would welcome information on any part of the assessment region (please send information to david.allen@

Cambodia. Based on their own knowledge of the region, they produced paper maps of a range of threats to freshwater species and their habitats – such as areas of urbanisation and high levels of pollution, shown here, which were then digitised. Together with additional information provided by experts at the species assessment review workshop to be held in early 2011, the maps are intended to help inform species conservation assessments.

International Rivers also worked with Thai groups to draw attention to the possible role of the Upper Mekong dams in China in contributing to the recent Mekong basin drought. On April 1, 2010, they helped to organize a “Public Forum on Sharing the Mekong River Basin” at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. The forum brought together almost 200 people to discuss the impacts of the drought and the role of Chinese dams. The public forum seems to have contributed significantly to major commitments made by International Rivers Network ( China at the subsequent Mekong Summit in Hua Hin on April 5 “Protecting the Biological Diversity of the Mekong River” to share more data on its dam operations and river levels, and for International Rivers received a CEPF grant in April 2010 for closer cooperation with downstream countries in the future. protecting the Mekong mainstream from destructive dams. Over the past three months, International Rivers has worked with the In June, International Rivers helped to organize a trip for 14 Save the Mekong ( coalition to draw Thai journalists to visit the site of the Xayaburi Dam in Laos, attention to the serious and irreversible impacts the cascade of the first dam planned for the lower Mekong mainstream. The trip twelve dams planned for the Lower Mekong Mainstream would resulted in extensive media coverage in Thailand on the project, have on fisheries, biodiversity, food security and livelihoods. More which is being developed by a Thai company Ch. Karnchang for than 60 million people depend on the rich fisheries of the Mekong the export of power to Thailand. While the MRC aspires to start River for their livelihoods. If built, mainstream dams would block its regional consultation procedures with neighbouring countries vital fish migration routes and change water quality, resulting on Xayaburi Dam in the coming months, International Rivers in huge declines in fisheries. Their recent research report titled believes that all project decisions should be deferred until after “Feeding Southeast Asia: Mekong River Fisheries and Regional the recommendations of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Food Security” (full report can be accessed here), shows just how have been considered and adopted by regional governments and the MRC. Read full story. important Mekong fisheries are for food security in the region. International Rivers participated in meetings organized by the Photo: Xayaburi Dam in Laos. International Rivers Network. Mekong River Commission to discuss its Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) currently being undertaken to assess the cumulative impacts and benefits of proposed mainstream dams. 30

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


CEPF-RIT Updates

Missouri Botanical Garden ( There are two Red Listing workshops planned: the first “Assessment of the Status and Distribution of Globally workshop will be held in Hanoi on 1-4 December 2010 and the second workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand Threatened Plant Species in Indochina� in November 2011. During these workshops, plant The total plant diversity of Indochina is somewhere taxonomists, ecologists, foresters, and conservation between 10,000 and 20,000 species, and even conservative biologists working in government, non-government, and estimates suggest that as many as 50 percent of the plants academic organizations across the region and in Australia, are endemic to the region. In spite of this rich and unique Europe, and North America will assess the current global diversity that is seriously under threat, only 248 species conservation status of plants in Indochina. Among the are on the IUCN Red List of threatened plants and most plants with high conservation values are ornamental plants of the assessments are over ten years old and therefore are such as the orchids, gingers, aroids, begonias, palms, no longer accurate. The CEPF Ecosystem Profile for the medicinal plants, non-timber forest products, and many Indochina region recognized the inadequacies of the Red tropical hardwood trees such as the commercially valuable List for plants, thus in July 2009, the CEPF approved a dipterocarp species. In these workshops, the experts will three-year project to assess the status and distribution of also identify the most valuable sites of plant diversity in the Indochina region as the basis for prioritising conservation globally threatened plants in Indochina. actions. Led by the Missouri Botanical Garden and conducted in partnership with the Botanical Gardens Conservation Large photo: Rhoiptelea chiliantha; International and the IUCN, the project will coordinate Small photo below (left to right): Magnolia sp; partners across the region and around the world to assess, Paphiopedilum malipoense and Dipterocarpus alatus. and make publicly available, up-to-date, scientifically based Photos: MBG data on globally threatened plant species in Indochina. The scientifically rigorous information will be made publicly Compiled by Tran Thanh Huong/CEPF -RIT accessible, especially to decision-makers and conservation managers who will have at hand the knowledge necessary Sincere thanks to all project managers and staff of the to protect threatened species and to manage priority areas above mentioned projects for their kind contributions to this section. Ed. for conservation.



BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

Shrinking IBAs of central Vietnam


he important bird areas (IBAs) of central Vietnam are confined to the Annamese Lowlands Endemic Bird Area, from the south of Ninh Binh province, to the south of Thua Thien Hue province. Ten IBAs identified in 2002 by BirdLife include: Pu Mat, Vu Quang, Ke Go, Khe Net, Phong Nha, Ke Bang, Truong Son (southern Quang Binh and northern Quang Tri), Dakrong, Phong Dien and Bach Ma. Among them, only part of the Truong Son IBA (in south-west of Quang Binh province) is not a protected area. In the last 8 years, as a result of forest re-classification, many IBAs have been reduced in area, research conducted as part of BirdLife’s Vietnam IBA review has shown.

IBA name Pu Mat Vu Quang Ke Go Khe Net Phong Nha Ke Bang Truong Son (Quang Binh) Truong Son (Quang Tri) Dakrong Phong Dien Bach Ma

Area in 2002 (ha) 91,113 55,950 24,801 23,524* 41,132 106,813 50,000 40,526 41.508,7 22,031

Area in 2010 (ha) 94,804.5 55,950 21,758 26,815** (11.000 core zone) 41,132 106,813 20.813 25,000 37,640 41.508,7 22,031

Notes: * Area proposed by BirdLife International (2000); ** Area includes core zone (11,000 ha) and buffer zone Photo: Jonathan C. Eames 32

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Two Annamese Lowlands IBAs have been proposed for upgrading into nature reserves as follows: • Khe Net Protection Forest, Quang Binh / Khe Net IBA will be regazetted as Khe Net Nature Reserve (11,000 ha). The total area including the buffer zone will cover 26,815 ha. This new nature reserve in Qunag Binh province will adjoin Ke Go Nature Reserve in Ha Tinh province. • Most of the Truong Son IBA in Quang Binh province has been included in a feasibility project to establish Khe Nuoc Trong Nature Conservation Area with the area of 20,813 ha based on the proposal to upgrade the Protection forest Dong Chau (Mt. Chau, Highest peak in the area); • The Sepanghieng Watershed Protection Forest and parts of northern Huong Hoa district are part of the Truong Son IBA and have now been established as Bac Huong Hoa Nature Reserve, Quang Tri province with an area of 23,500 ha. Results of several biodiversity surveys in recent years have enriched information on the biodiversity of the IBAs. However, they focused on Primates, especially gibbons (Hylobates spp.) and Redshanked Douc Langur (Pygathrix nemaeus), and Ungulates. Unfortunately, information on birds as the primary criteria for identifying IBAs is inadequate and in many cases out of date. For example, all surveys have failed to show any evidence for the continued presence of Edwards’s Pheasant (Lophura edwardsi). The results of a recent rapid survey of Annamese Lowlands IBAs including Dakrong, Bac Huong Hoa, Truong Son, Ke Go and Khe Net revealed the following results:

Important Bird Areas in the Annamese Lowlands Endemic Bird Area. Source: BirdLife International in Indochina

• Forests of the IBAs are being restored pretty well compared to 2005; • No observed encroachment or conversion of forest land into farms in IBAs. • No infrastructure construction projects in the IBAs (i.e. Roads and hydropower plants); • Quality of forest in Khe-Net proposed Nature Reserve has been significantly degraded compared to 2000; • Illegal logging in Khe Net proposed Nature Reserve occurs daily. BirdLife staff witnessed around 10 illegal loggers riding bikes into the forest and 4 buffalos dragging logs from the forest; • No observation of poachers in Truong Son IBA but according to rangers in Khe Giua (Truong Son IBA), poachers from the districts in Quang Binh province are often seen poaching in Truong Son IBA. Le Trong Trai Senior Programme Officer


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

PROJECT UPDATeS nesting success is greatly improved and also benefits local community members who often have few other sources of income during the dry season, which coincides with the vulture breeding season. Vulture food sources are supplemented by ‘vulture restaurants’ where food free from contamination is provided and these are popular sites for visitors to observe the birds. “By protecting nests and supplementing food supplies we are saving some of the world’s largest and most charismatic birds”, stated Hugo Rainey, WCS technical advisor to the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. “Nowhere else in Asia do vultures have such a promising future.” While conservationists can point to recent successes in the conservation of Cambodia’s vultures, they also warn of the rising threat of agricultural pesticides for fishing and hunting to the birds. Since December 2008, more than 20 vultures are known to have died from consuming domestic animals that had been poisoned accidentally by inappropriate use of pesticides. This practice may also present a risk to human health.


Increase in Cambodia’s Vultures Gives Hope to Imperilled Scavengers

n the midst of what has become known as the Asian Vulture crisis, the vultures of Cambodia are increasing in number, providing a beacon of hope for three of the most threatened species, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society and other members of the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. Researchers report that record numbers of vultures have been counted in Cambodia’s annual vulture census, with 296 birds of three species found at multiple sites across the Northern and Eastern Plains of Cambodia by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project, a partnership of conservationists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The record count means that Cambodia is home to the only increasing populations of vultures. All three vulture species resident in Cambodia are listed as “Critically Endangered” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

In the past decade, vulture populations in Asia have been decimated throughout most of their range, primarily because of the use of the veterinary drug diclofenac in cattle. This drug is toxic to vultures, causing death through renal failure and visceral gout to birds that feed on the carcasses. Vulture populations in Southeast Asia have been largely unaffected by diclofenac, but are still threatened by the declining number of large herbivores in the region. This success follows a record breeding season for vultures in Cambodia in 2010. A total of 36 vulture chicks fledged from colonies across the north and east of the country and increase from last year’s total of 19 chicks. Vulture conservation efforts in Cambodia are the result of a number of activities promoted by the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. For instance, vulture nests are protected by local community members who are paid a small fee for their support. This ensures that vulture

Song Chansocheat, Ministry of Environment and WCS Vulture Project Manager, commented that “Cambodia is the only Asian country where diclofenac is rarely available and vulture populations are managed. We have been monitoring vultures since 2004 and there have been increasing numbers of poisoned birds recently. Educating people about the risk to wildlife and people from incorrect use of poisons is important.” The Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project is a partnership of different government agencies and conservation organisations led by WCS and also including the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection of the Ministry of Environment, BirdLife International in Indochina, Worldwide Fund for Nature, Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) and Conservation International. Support for these efforts is provided by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF)/United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), ACCB, WWF US and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. -----Source: A WCS press release Photo by Jonathan C. Eames 34


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

Largest ever White-shouldered Ibis count


Roost counts are being undertaken during the wet season at four main sites across north and east Cambodia. The counts take place on a monthly basis and at the same date and time to ensure an accurate minimum certain estimate of population size. This is the second successive year in which these counts have taken place, and they are providing exciting new information about the status of Whiteshouldered Ibis. The previous highest count The University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, was 310 birds in August 2009. brought together a group of conservationists for a coordinated survey of 37 roost sites As well as helping to understand overall across Cambodia. Participants came from population size, the roost counts are improving the Cambodian Forestry Administration and knowledge of where this ibis occurs. The General Department for Administration of new findings indicate that Lomphat Wildlife Nature Conservation and Protection, BirdLife Sanctuary, Ratanakiri province, is particularly International in Indochina, the People valuable as over 170 birds were counted here. Resources and Conservation Foundation With up to 40 % of the known population, (PRCF), the Wildlife Conservation Society this site is now the second most important in the world, not far behind Western Siem Pang and Worldwide Fund for Nature. IBA, Stung Treng province, which has the The total of 429 individuals, counted largest known population of over 200 birds. simultaneously, exceeds the 2010 IUCN Red List global estimate of 330 birds by a White-shouldered Ibis has been considered staggering 30 %. Nevertheless, this figure the most endangered waterbird in South-East may yet underestimate the true population Asia. The population declined steeply in the size. Hugh Wright, a doctoral student at UEA twentieth century, associated with habitat loss and hunting. It is now extinct from and an expert on the species, explains: Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and “Discovering so many White-shouldered Ibis southern China, and remains primarily in dry really improves our chances of saving the deciduous forests of north and east Cambodia. species. During this record-breaking count, In the wet season the ibises group together at one of our main sites actually had far fewer feeding and roosting sites, making it possible birds than in previous surveys. I don’t believe to count them. these birds move very far and they were probably still present at that site. Considering Despite the larger known population, previous counts, this means that the actual conservationists remain very concerned for this species. Mr Sum Phearun, EAU/PRCF population could even exceed 500 birds”. record-breaking 429 Whiteshouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni have just been recorded in Cambodia, making the known global population much larger than previously thought. With so many birds remaining in the wild the chances of conservation success are greatly improved – welcome news for this Critically Endangered bird species.

project assistant and organizer of counts at two sites, said: “It’s unlikely that the population has actually grown or started recovering. We have put more effort into searching for ibis and we’re getting better coverage of roost sites, hence our larger counts. But the species is still very close to extinction so we are continuing our efforts to understand and protect the ibis.”

particularly the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, administered by BirdLife International in Indochina. Additional funding came from Chicago Board of Trade Endangered Species Fund (administered by Chicago Zoological Society), the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme and the British Ornithologists’ Union. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. ------------

The future is uncertain for White-shouldered Ibis. Much of the population occurs outside of the protected area system in Cambodia. This species and other waterbirds are threatened by conversion of habitat for commercial plantation, agriculture and infrastructural development projects, such as the proposed Lower Srepok 3 dam, which could flood a large area of Lomphat Source: A UEA press release. Wildlife Sanctuary. Logging and conversion to plantation is a very significant threat at Western Photo: White-shouldered Ibis in Western Siem Siem Pang. Failure to mitigate the threats at these Pang, Cambodia. Photo by Hugh Wright two sites could drive this species rapidly towards extinction. Several donors have supported this work, 35 49

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Birds of Cuc Phuong National Park


he Checklist of the Birds of Cuc Phuong National Park provides orientation and some general status information for birdwatchers and the interested naturalist alike.

A large number of bird species have been recorded in Cuc Phuong National Park. The list comprises 381 bird species which have been observed by both scientists and birdwatchers, meaning that roughly 40% of the 850 recorded bird species in Vietnam have been recorded in Cuc Phuong National Park. Too bad the striking cover depicts a bird species now extinct in Cuc Phuong National Park as a result of hunting. Ed.

Birds of Borneo Birds of U Minh Thuong National Park

Reviewed by Jonathan C. Eames


Minh Thuong National Park (UMTNP) is situated in the Mekong Delta, 365 km south-west of Ho Chi Minh city, with a core zone of 8,509 ha and a buffer zone of 13,291 ha. The vegetation of the core zone comprises mainly of Melaleuca forest, open swamp with various species of grass and sedge. Natural forest in the buffer zone has been cleared since the 1990s as a result of human settlement. However, the buffer zone still legally belongs to the National Park and Melaleuca is required to be replanted in the households’ land.

From December 1998 to September 2003, Care International, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Kien Giang Province, has implemented U Minh Thuong National Park Conservation and Community Development Project. During the project, scientists have carried out many different surveys and monitoring programmes in the National Park. Among those, the bird monitoring programme (from April 1999 to October 2002), led by Nguyen Phuc Bao Hoa, has produced not only checklist but also data on the status and abundance of each bird species. Totally, 162 species of birds has been recorded in this programme. Besides that, there are 11 species that have been recorded outside this programme. This makes the number of species known in UMTNP up to 173 species. With technical and financial support from Wildlife At Risk, the book Birds of U Minh Thuong National Park is published to introduce the results of UMTNP bird monitoring programme. 36

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali)


outh-East Asia is one of the richest parts of the world in terms of reptiles.

This first comprehensive guide to the reptiles of this region covers all the reptiles recorded from mainland SouthEast Asia, from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia to Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia, as well as the islands of the Great Sundas (including Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Bali). A detailed account with key identification characteristics, habitat and behaviour is included for each species, from crocodiles, tortoises and turtles, to lizards and snakes. Every recognized species is described, and 74 magnificent specially commissioned colour plates by top wildlife artists depict 700 major species in meticulous detail. Where useful, details such as plastrons (for turtles and tortoises), juveniles, variants and head patterns are also shown on the plates.



esticides are used around the world for improving crop yields and in Cambodia use is increasing. Many farmers have no information about safe use of pesticides and also some people deliberately misuse pesticides.

Pesticides – a threat to human health and wildlife in Cambodia

Most pesticides are used for normal agricultural purposes, but their unsafe use and availability of banned and highly toxic chemicasls are causing problems. In some areas of Cambodia over 90% of pesticide users had fallen ill from exposure to pesticides. This is unsurprising given that 75% of farmers had not received training on safe use and 89% did not know that pesticides were potentially dangerous. Labelling on pesticides is inadequate as almost all pesticide containers are not labelled in Khmer. Many pesticides in Cambodia are also banned or not approved for use, including many that are classed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) class I list of extremely or highly hazardous pesticides and are banned in many countries. This is partly because controlling trade is difficult as well as limited registration of traders and limited information about safe use. Pesticides are potentially very dangerous for farmers, local inhabitants and consumers, but we have

little information on the effects of current pesticide use. Pesticides are now used frequently for hunting and fishing. This is highly dangerous to people, wildlife and livestock and is illegal under the Forestry, Protected Area and draft Pesticide Laws. Fish or wildlife killed by such techniques is to consumers and these are highly toxic. The effects of these on human are not yet studied but must be serious. Deliberate use of pesticides for fishing in ponds and rivers will also kill indiscriminately any animal that drinks from them. Additionally, ponds and rivers will be lifeless for some time after poisoning, so this has implications for sustainability of fisheries. An important goal is improving information to farmers and traders about safe and appropriate use of pesticides. Traders need to be advised which pesticides are safe and legal to use. The provincial Departments of Agriculture need to be encouraged to help regulate the use of pesticides by using current government policy. ------------Source: Wildlife Conservation Society – Cambodia Page 38


BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Jack H. Cox ack H. Cox, Jr. of Charlotte passed away on June 22, 2010 in Laos. He was working on a crocodile project with the Wildlife Conservation Society when he suddenly became ill.


© Chanhsack VONGKHAMHENG/WCS Lao Program

Born on December 4, 1952, he attended area schools and was a graduate of Myers Park High School in 1971. He also earned a BA in environmental science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He started his long life of traveling touring Europe in his senior year of high school and soon after served in the Peace Corps. Some of his favorite countries were Nepal, New Guinea and Indonesia. In 1997 he took his mother on a threeweek tour of Southeast Asia. As a true naturalist he enjoyed the diversity of wildlife, particularly birds and reptiles. He spent a lot of his time in third-world countries and loved to work with the rural inhabitants. He was able to experience conditions that were harsh and demanding but could always show the tenacity and ability to succeed. We will miss his knowledge and expertise and know he inspired many others to become involved in some way to help protect the earth that supports us. Please share condolences online at ----Source: jack-h-cox&pid=143955343&fhid=4156


Dr. John Thorbjarnarson

he Wildlife Conservation Society mourns the loss of Senior Conservation Scientist Dr. John Thorbjarnarson, who died suddenly on February 14th in India. John was a world-renowned expert on crocodiles, alligators, anacondas, turtles and other species of reptiles and worked tirelessly throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia to ensure their protection and conservation. His deep commitment to conservation and wry sense of humor will be missed by all who knew John. All of us at WCS were inspired by his dedication and spirit through the many years we had the honor to work with him. With the generous support of John Thorbjarnarson’s family, WCS has established a memorial fund in John’s honor to promote the conservation of the world’s endangered crocodilians. Donations for the fund can be made online, or can be mailed to: Wildlife Conservation Society John Thorbjarnarson Memorial Fund Global Conservation Department 2300 Southern Blvd. Bronx, NY 10460



BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010


Liam Costello


r.Liam has recently begun a volunteer position with BirdLife International as Project Support Officer, under the Australian Government’s Australian Youth Ambassador for Development Program (AYAD). Liam will be based at BirdLife International’s Phnom Penh office and will assist with data management and GIS mapping; the development of funding proposals and research-related funding opportunities for new and existing projects. With a Bachelor of Horticulture at the University of Melbourne, Liam worked at an Arboricultural Consultancy specializing in GIS mapping and the establishment of databases for managing tree populations on private and public land for a range of government and non-government organizations. He has also been involved in native grassland conservation projects and coastal regeneration programs in his home state of Victoria, Australia. After visiting Cambodia in 2001, Liam is excited to be back and playing an active role in the conservation of the country’s rich biodiversity.

Pal Holly


al Holly is an intern finance assitant based at BirdLife’s office in Phnom Penh for BirdLife and PRCF. She used to work for Cyclo center in Phnom Penh as an Accountant. Holly hopes working for BirdLife will equip her with some hands-on experience whilst studying for a Bachelors degree in Finance and Banking at Cambodia’s National University of Management.

Sum Phearun


um Phearun joined BirdLife Cambodia Program in June as Ibis Research & Conservation Project Assistant for BirdLife and PRCF-CEPF Ibis project officer based in Lomphat. He is working to serve the purpose of conserving the Giant and White shouldered Ibises in Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary, Ratanakiri province. With a BSC in Agriculture, majoiring in Natural Resource Management from Maharishi Vedic University, Phearun used to work as Project Assistant fpr CRDT Organization and volunteered for Association of Farmer Development (AFD) organization, 12 and Center d’Etule et de Development Agricole Cambodgien (CEDAC). He is also working part-time as a Computer Teacher at the university, 39 12

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

Nguyen Van Quang


ince February 2009, Quang has been working as a climate changer esearcher.

Quang has a MSc Degree in Ecology from Hiroshima University, Japan. During his time doing his thesis’s research, he gained many practical experiences on environmental monitoring, especially in building environmental indicators, field monitoring and database development. Before going to Japan, Quang worked as Project Manager and Team Leader for the Database and Training Department of VidaGIS company, a joint venture company between Vietnam and Denmark. His research interests are climate change, habitat conservation, landscape ecology, environmental policy, and GIS application in environment and natural conservation. Wish him a good luck in the future.



n the last version of Babbler No. 34, the photo of the dead rhino in the article “Major Vietnamese involvement in international rhino horn trade” (page 20) was incorrectly credited to Jonathan C. Eames. Thie photograph sould have been credited to Martin Harvey/ WWF-Canon. We apologise for the mistake.


Nguyen Huu Mai Phuong


fter 13 months working as Communications Officer, Nguyen Huu Mai Phuong, with a BA degree in sociology and an MA in Development studies, has decided to return to the UK to study photography. “Working for BirdLife was super cool but I want to give my camera and my creativity a shot!” she fondly said. The lure of Leeds could not compete with Hanoi. Good luck Phuong!


BirdLife Cambodia office has relocated ince 1 September 2010, BirdLife International office in Cambodia has been relocated to the new address as below:

House: # 9 Street 29, Tonle Basac Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. P.O.Box: 2686




Tel/Fax: (855) 23 993631 (unchanged) Email: Website:







S BIRLIFE INTERNATIONAL CAMBODIA PROGRAM OFFICE #9,Street 29 Tonle Basac,Chamkarmon Phnom Penh.Cambodia Tel/Fax (855) 23- 993-631 Email:




BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

photo spot

Eld’s Deer Rucervus eldii siamensis Photographed at Western Siem Pang by Jonathan C. Eames 41

BirdLife International in Indochina The Babbler 35 - September 2010

From the archives

N.G.O. Wallahs (1997) By Walton Ford

Watercolor, gouache, pencil, and ink on paper


bout the painting, Walton Ford said: “N.G.O. stands for Non-Governmental Organiation. People go overseas with the Peace Corps, trying to help. I made a giant marabou stork - they live in India, central Asia, and Africa. They’re old-world storks, and they’re like vultures. They eat carcasses, they go up into nests and eat baby flamingoes. They stalk around, and clean the streets. My stork looms over a little starling, a Western bird, distributing Hershey’s kisses to the native birds. It’s that thing of people going over to do good and getting caught up in some shit storm they didn’t anticipate.” ------Source: Katz, S. and Kazanjian, D. (2002) Walton Ford: Tigers of Wrath, Horses of Instruction, Harry N. Abramm, Inc. 42

The Babbler 35  

Quarterly newsletter of BirdLife International in Indochina (July - September 2010)