How humans can help save critically endangered waterbird from extinction

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Washington, July 27 (ANI): Humans can help in saving the world's most threatened bird species, called the white-shouldered ibis or waterbirds, from extinction, according to new findings by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The study by UEA conservation experts explores the exact reasons behind the decline of the critically endangered white-shouldered ibis.

The study was carried out in Western Siem Pang Important Bird Area (IBA), northern Cambodia, where 160-200 of the birds survive - around half of the global population.

Working in partnership with BirdLife International, the researchers found that the ibis prefer to forage in open and accessible sites with low vegetation and bare soil.

The apparent reason behind this choice is that such surroundings makes it easier for the birds to find prey, aids take-off and landing, and improves detection of approaching danger.

Thus, traditional small-scale farming by local communities is crucial to the ibis' survival because grazing livestock and burning of the forest understorey opens up these habitats making them suitable for the birds.

"Our findings show that this critically endangered species is largely dependent on the local farmers for their survival. This is a fascinating outcome as we tend to assume that human activity always has a negative impact on the natural world," said lead author Hugh Wright, of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences.

However, not all-human influence is positive for the endangered ibis.

Western Siem Pang, currently an unprotected site, is under imminent threat from large-scale development, which would destroy the birds' habitats entirely, along with the local farming communities.

"The Forestry Administration in Cambodia is supportive of a proposal to make the area a protected forest and we believe that this - along with the continuation of local farming methods practiced for generation after generation - will be crucial in saving this once common species from extinction," added Hugh.

The study has been published in the journal Animal Conservation. (ANI)

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