Cambodia records 50 percent decline in vulture population in a decade

Cambodia's vultures are facing a high risk of extinction and have seen a 50 percent decline in number since 2003, conservationist groups said in a joint statement on Monday. "Only 121 of the birds were recorded in this year's national census, the lowest number on record since 2003," said the joint statement released by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), BirdLife International, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity. "Recent reviews indicate that poisoning is the major threat to the vulture population in Cambodia," the statement said.

With global populations declining at an alarming rate, Cambodia's three vulture species, namely Red-headed (Sarcogyps calvus), Slender-billed (Gyps tenuirostris), and White-rumped (Gyps bengalensis), are all listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered. "Poisoning is probably the biggest threat to Cambodia's vultures, and it's bad for human health as well," said Simon Mahood, WCS's senior technical advisor.

The widespread use of the NSAID Diclofenac in veterinary medicine in India has caused its population to collapse in recent years. Diclofenac is a compound now known to be extremely poisonous to vultures. The red-headed vulture population has essentially halved every other year since the late 1990s, and what once was a plentiful species numbering in the hundreds of thousands has come dangerously close to extinction in less than two decades.

Xin Hua Net, 4 September 2017