Human impact could save endangered bird

July 27th, 2009 - 3:40 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 27 (IANS) Human impact on one of the world’s most threatened bird species could save it from extinction, says a new study.
The study by University of East Anglia (UEA) conservation experts explores the exact reasons behind the decline of the critically endangered white-shouldered ibis.

Funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the new study was carried out in northern Cambodia, where 160-200 of the birds survive — around half 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.

This is believed to be because it makes it easier to find prey, aid with take-off and landing, and improve detection of approaching danger.

Traditional small-scale farming by local communities is therefore 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,” said senior study author Hugh Wright.

“This is a fascinating outcome as we tend to assume that human activity always has a negative impact on the natural world,” he added.

With fewer than 500 birds remaining, mainly in Cambodia, the white-shouldered ibis has undergone the most rapid decline of all South-East Asia’s large water birds and is now the most threatened.

These findings were published in the journal Animal Conservation.

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