Wetlands International (and its regional predecessors Asian Wetland Bureau and INTERWADER) has been involved in a large number of wetland conservation activities in Thailand since 1985. Over a period of fifteen years (1984-1999), more than 25 projects (large and small) were carried out in collaboration with various partner organisations, most notably the Prince of Songkla University, the Office of Environmental Policy and Planning (OEPP), the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, and Royal Forest Department, only to name a few.
Among Wetlands International's most successful partnerships in Thailand is the collaboration with the Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, Southern Thailand. After several years of cooperation, mostly on shorebird studies and wetland surveys, a Memorandum of Agreement between Wetlands International (then Asian Wetland Bureau) and the University was signed in September 1994 for a 5-year collaborative programme (1994-1999) on wetland research and management activities in Thailand. In June 1996, a Wetlands International - Thailand Programme office was launched under the agreement, at the University's Faculty of Environmental Management, from where a large EC-funded project on mangrove restoration was coordinated during 1996-1999.
To celebrate the fruitful years of collaboration, a one-day seminar entitled "15 Years of Cooperation between the Prince of Songkla University and Wetlands International in Wetland Research and Conservation in Thailand" was held in Hat Yai on 4 February 2000. A signing ceremony of a new 5-year Memorandum of Agreement (2000-2004) between Wetlands International and the University was held at the seminar.
Furthermore, the seminar provided a platform for wetland experts from the university to exchange ideas and suggestions for the future cooperation between Wetlands International and the University. Eight wetland experts from the university presented papers on their experiences and research on topics such as wetland conservation and research in Pattani Bay, communication, education and public awareness on wetlands, wetlands and climate change, sedimentation and mangrove growth, multidisciplinary studies of Songkhla Lake Basin, economic valuation of wetlands, and artificial wetlands for wastewater treatment.
A formal closing ceremony for the EC-funded project, "Community Participation in Mangrove Forest Management and Rehabilitation in Southern Thailand", also took place at the seminar, which formed part of the World Wetlands Day celebrations in Thailand.
The close relationship between Wetlands International and the Prince of Songkla University over the past fifteen years, the human resource and field experience offered by the University staff, the international contacts and networks of Wetlands International, and the newly signed 5-year Memorandum of Agreement, hold enormous potential for an effective and productive cooperation in the years to come. Meanwhile, Wetlands International is also developing closer collaboration and partnerships with other key institutions in Thailand and abroad, as this will greatly contribute to the conservation and wise use of wetlands and associated resources in the country.
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The White-Winged Duck Cairina scutulata is one of the most threatened waterbird species in Indonesia. It has been known to depend largely on freshwater swamp forests as its main habitat. At present, it is believed that the present population of Cairina scutulata remains scattered throughout twenty sites in six provinces of Sumatra. Most records were based on findings in the southern part of Sumatra, including the province of Jambi.
In North Sumatra, the last record of Cairina scutulata was made in 1990 at Rianiate Transmigration Settlement near Lumut, long after the first record in 1909. The 1990 record revealed that White-Winged Duck populations in the province have dwindled to an estimated less than five individuals. Since then, no study has been conducted of the duck's population in the area.
In order to investigate the status of Cairina scutulata in North Sumatra, Wetlands International - Indonesia Programme, in collaboration with Universitas Sumatera Utara (the University of North Sumatra, USU), Medan conducted a White-Winged Duck Survey. The survey was launched in the province in July 1999. Funds came from the St. Louis Zoological Park, USA. The aim of the survey was to identify current distribution of Cairina scutulata in North Sumatra. It also involved compilation of existing data and information on the White-Winged Duck distribution in North Sumatra and developing a network with students in North Sumatra to support the survey.
Findings from the six sites surveyed revealed that the White-Winged Duck (Cairina scutulata) still occurs in North Sumatra, particularly in Lumen swamps although in low numbers (only two individuals were encountered flying over the swamp area near Sihiong village, Lumut).
The White-Winged Duck survey also found that the another two sites, Lae Tapus swamps and the Rianate Transmigration settlement have undergone considerable habitat changes, including conversion from freshwater and peat swamp forests to palm oil plantation, rice fields and other land uses. During the survey, no Cairina scutulata were encountered at the two sites. However, some areas of Lae Tapus swamps were recognized as potential habitats for the White-Winged Duck. This was confirmed by positive response from villagers regarding the occurrence of the species in rice fields in nearby villages a few months before the survey was conducted. Local villagers also informed the survey team that the White-Winged Duck can only easily be found further north of Lae Tapus swamps, near lake Paris within Aceh Province.
A report on the White-Winged Duck survey has been printed and disseminated in October 1999 to related agencies. From November 1999 to January 2000, a follow up survey on Cairina scutulata was carried out in North Sumatra by Wetlands International - Indonesia Programme, USU and BKSDA (Natural Resource Conservation Office) of North Sumatra. The survey was conducted in the Lumut swamp areas, focussing on Cairina scutulata population and habitat. The survey also aimed at developing networks to monitor the species in the area. A report will detail the findings, due to be published in March 2000. The data gathered will ultimately be used to support the conservation and survival of this endangered species.
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