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Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus

Leptoptilos javanicus has an extensive range across South and South-East Asia. Substantial populations remain only in India (mostly in Assam, with c.2,000 birds1, West Bengal and Bihar where 42 nests confirmed breeding in 20047), Indonesia (c.2,000 in 1993, the majority on Sumatra) and Cambodia (1000 individuals or >300 pairs9). Smaller breeding populations (<200 pairs) occur in Nepal (in 2003 c.50 birds were recorded in Royal Chitwan National Park: the national population was recently estimated at c.300 individuals following surveys in east, central and western Nepal3,8), Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia (c.500 individuals11), Brunei, Vietnam and Thailand. It has been recorded in Bhutan2 but is thought to be extinct in China and in Singapore. Formerly common and widespread, it has declined dramatically across its range and has been extirpated from many areas in recent decades owing to persistent un-regulated harvesting of eggs and chicks at nesting colonies. However, some populations at least seem to be relatively stable, e.g. numbers in the Matang Mangrove Forest, Malaysia have remained relatively constant for 20 years12. The current population estimate is 5,000 birds, however, an increase in survey effort across much of the region has revised many national totals upwards. A recent analysis of Cambodian records estimated a national population of c.1,870 pairs10; precautionary interpretation of this figure suggests the previous national estimate of 1,000 individuals should be revised upwards considerably to 2,500-4,000 individuals. Therefore, overall the global population may be considerably larger than previous estimates.

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Taken on December 16, 2009