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The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is a voluntary network-based activity that is part of the International Waterbird Census (IWC). The census is a highly important activity that aids in the development of conservation strategies for water birds and wetlands. The AWC is conducted annually during the second and third weeks of January. However, this year the organizer decided to extend the time frame, from the second week of January to the last week of February.

The AWC has been conducted in Indonesia since 1986, as a result of coordination between the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) and Wetlands International, with support from the National Geographic Society and the National Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Birds and Their Habitats. Data and information obtained through these census activities help determine the status of global waterbird populations and are used as a reference in area management planning.

There are various types of waterbirds; some residents, some migratory. Indonesia’s vast expanse of swamp and mangrove forest provides a paradise for these winged creatures to forage.

Juq Kehje Swen (‘orangutan island’ in Wehea Dayak language) is a manmade island used as a pre-release island to accommodate rehabilitated orangutans prior to their release to the wild. As a forested environment secure from logging activities and other forms of exploitation, the island serves as a protection area for many species of mammal and bird. Naturally, sandwiched between the Melenyu and Wahau Rivers, Juq Kehje Swen is an ideal habitat for waterbirds with its abundant sources of food. It is also a good resting place and breeding ground for them.

On Juq Kehje Swen, our team conducted AWC 2021 activities from the second to the last week of January. The census was completed through observation at six different locations along the banks of the two rivers surrounding the island, with five open-field locations.

The three weeks of observations conducted by our team resulted in data collected on 30 bird species, several of which are protected or endangered according to standards set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s regulation No. 106, 2018. Several unique and elusive bird species were recorded, including the storm’s stork (Ciconia stormi), oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster), stork-billed kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis), rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), wreathed hornbill (Aceros undulatus), wrinkled hornbill (Aceros corrugatus), and Bulwer’s pheasant (Lophura bulweri).

The discovery of these rare bird species on Juq Kehje Swen Island thrilled and motivated our team members, who were excited about bird watching during the three weeks of census!

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