As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 4 May 2018

In Cambodia, payments to protect an endangered bird are no simple matter

By Abigail Seiff // 19 April 2018

STUNG TRENG, Cambodia — At the tip of a small sandbar jutting into the Mekong, four fishermen unfurl a net, half an eye on the old man lecturing them. In a gravelly voice, 64-year-old Meak Phoeurn informs the group that this is a conservation area, that there is a rare bird nearby and they better stay away from her eggs. He spins around and points to the rolling dunes and high grass and, in a flash of inspiration, warns them there are cameras everywhere.

“Be careful, you’re going to be trapped in the security cameras, ok? You’re going to be in jail, so you better be careful, you never know.”

Later, laughing at his own audacity, Phoeurn says the idea came to him after seeing a drone last year. There are, of course, no security cameras on this wild, uninhabited slip of land. The trick is just one in an arsenal honed over a decade of figuring out how, exactly, to save a vanishing bird.
The river tern was once so common in this part of the Mekong that its eggs could be collected by the basketful. Today, there are about 60 birds remaining in all of Cambodia. Between January and April, the river terns lay eggs on the numerous sandbars that appear in the dry season — directly in front of a string of villages. For about 25 days, until they hatch, the eggs lie uncovered, directly on the sand. Keeping away fishermen, children, water buffalo, and rats is no easy task. 

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