Posted on 26 January 2018
September 2nd 2017 was WWF-Cambodia’s first time to hold International Vulture Awareness Day
September 2nd 2017 was WWF-Cambodia’s first time to hold International Vulture Awareness Day. Along with 135 organizations world-wide holding similar events, it come at a crucial time as the population of the red-headed, slender-billed, and white-rumped vultures are all listed as vulnerable to critically endangered species in Cambodia on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list.
Vulture populations have declined 95-99% on the Indian subcontinent through poisoning by the livestock drug Diclofenac ingested from animal carcasses. Though this drug appears not to be used in Southeast Asia, populations have still decreased — most likely because of a decline in wild prey populations, decreasing food availability.
The remaining populations in Cambodia are very small, numbering a few hundred individuals. Nesting populations in Cambodia are supported by regular supplemental feedings of domestic cattle carcasses through a joint monitoring effort of WWF and its partners called ‘Vulture Restaurants’.
Vultures are a distinctive and spectacular component of the biodiversity of the environments. They provide critically important ecosystem services by cleaning up carcasses and other organic waste in the environment. They are nature’s garbage collectors and this translates into significant economic benefits.
Studies have shown that in areas where there are no vultures, carcasses take up to three or four times longer to decompose. This has huge implications for the spread of diseases in both wild and domestic animals, as well as elevating pathogenic risks to humans.
WWF-Cambodia hosted their International Vulture Awareness Day event over an evening and morning to engage as many people as possible in conversations, activities, and awareness.
Taking place at Okrieng commune in Sambo district, Kratie Province, the evening activity was a night show inviting community members to a screening of an educational documentary on the importance of vulture populations and the environmental value they have. The next day gathered as many school children in the area as possible for the main event.
Talks from WWF-Cambodia bird experts, partner organizations, and provincial officers prepared the students for a march for Vulture conservation through the streets with banners, flags, and megaphones, showing support for vulture conservation. After that, the school students engaged in fun drawing competitions and activities focused on vulture facts and their environmental importance.
The key of WWF-Cambodia’s outreach and awareness work for our conservation projects is to engage younger populations and educate them early in their lives so that they grow up with conservation lessons instilled in them. Behavioral change for wildlife conservation on a generational scale has the biggest chance of succeeding this way and is an aspect we encourage through outreach and awareness activities.
About 200 school students attended the day-time activity and many more for the evening night show. For WWF-Cambodia, the first International Vulture Awareness Day Activity was a great success.
This is reflected in the feedback we received from some of the participants. Mrs. Sophea Khe, a teacher at a local school said: “It is important to protect the vulture because it cleans the environment and it’s nearly extinct, so we must save it for the future generation and for tourists.” Mrs. Sophea also commented that she would continue to teach her pupils to help vulture conservation.
“The Vulture is a rare animal and nearly extinct, I will join vulture conservation by not using poison and reporting to authorities when I see poachers. Vulture Day was very interesting and I’m so happy I am here for it”, said Mr. Bol Antet, a local farmer.