White-winged ducks in peril but sighting inspires hope

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An endangered white-winged duck is seen leaving its nest at the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province on July 8. According to WCS Cambodia, only about 20-30 white-winged ducks remain in the sanctuary. WCS CAMBODIA

Only about 20-30 endangered white-winged ducks (Asacornis scutulata) remain in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia.

White-winged ducks are currently listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as an endangered species.

WCS Cambodia technical adviser Thann Sithan told The Post on Thursday that globally, only about 1,000 are left, mostly in India and Myanmar.

In Cambodia, Sithan said white-winged ducks have been spotted in small numbers in other provinces in the last few years, but a number has not been recorded recently.

This year, one white-winged duck in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary laid eight eggs but only five hatched. Therefore, in addition to these newly hatched eggs, there may be between 20-30 white-winged ducks in the country.

WCS Cambodia released an image on Wednesday of an endangered white-winged duckling at the moment it left its nest. Conservationists believe this duckling is one of the five fledglings they have been tracking.

WCS Cambodia said the white-winged ducks like to nest in holes in old trees. Unfortunately, this type of tree poses a high risk from illegal logging.

WCS Cambodia senior technical adviser Simon Mahood said: “White-winged ducks are such an important species. The habitats in which they are found are unique and must be preserved to protect this species. It requires community engagement and strong partnerships for conservation efforts to be successful.”

WCS Cambodia said the organisation is in collaboration with the provincial environment department and has been working with local people in the area to provide long-term protection for the past 10 years.