Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tmatboey's Treasured Ibis

Tmatboey is a small village set in deciduous dipterocarp forest in the center of Cambodia's Northern Plains. It has the distinction of being home to two highly endangered ibis, the Giant and the White-shouldered. Both birds have suffered precipitous population declines in the past half-century, and both are finding refuge and breeding success in Tmatboey.

The primary threat to Giant Ibis is disturbance of critical wetlands and conversion of their habitat to agriculture. Giant Ibis were once associated with wild ungulates, and today they depend upon grazing by domestic livestock such as Water Buffalo to maintain their short-sward grassland habitat and muddy edges to waterholes.

Water Buffalo enjoy a good wallow in the mud.
(Photos by Narca)

We hike in before dawn to a vantage point for seeing from a distance a known roost of Giant Ibis. Soon after daybreak, the ibis in view begins to preen and call, then flies off to forage. Later in the morning we encounter a couple more, as they forage at the edge of a wetland. This photo is of a distant individual, but at least conveys an impression of the huge, shy, red-eyed bird.

Giant Ibis, through a telescope

Dusk at Tmatboey, with a new moon tangled in the tree branches.

Dusk is a good time to see White-shouldered Ibis, as they move to roost trees. White-shouldereds were once widespread from Malaysia to China, but now occur only as a relict population of perhaps as few as 20 individuals in Borneo and the small population in Cambodia. It is good to see them prospering at Tmatboey.

White-shouldered Ibis. Low light conditions make photography difficult!

A program to protect the ibis nests rewards the local farmers who discover the nests, employs rangers from the village, and employs two staff from Wildlife Conservation Society to monitor the nests and to confirm successful fledging. 70% of the program's funds go directly to the villagers. In a region where family incomes average $350 a year, the money from conservation is a substantial help.

White-shouldered Ibis fly to their evening roost.

1 comment:

  1. a very interesting post and nice photographs.