Wildlife and Conservation Efforts in Cambodia
The Khmer are making great strides to protect and preserve their abundant and unique wildlife resources. Working together and with international conservation groups they are engaged in ending the illegal wildlife trade and identifying sustainable ways to develop an economy of ecotourism with bird sanctuaries and wildlife reserves.
Cambodia is home to a diverse and fascinating array of wildlife. The Kingdom boasts 212 mammal species, 536 bird species and 176 reptile species. Cambodia is also home to 850 freshwater fish species mostly all living in the Tonlè Sap Lake area. However, despite Cambodia’s rich array of wildlife much of it is under threat, endangered or critically endangered largely due to deforestation, mining activities and other habitat destruction, poaching, farming and fishing. Sadly, the country is also rife with illegal wildlife trade. So far these factors have already managed to drive Cambodia’s national animal, a wild, forest-dwelling ox, the Kouprey, to extinction. Wild tigers, hog dear and wild water buffaloes are fated to follow.
Other renowned wildlife in the Kingdom includes elephant, deer, oxen, banteng (Khmer for wild cattle), panther, bear and tiger. Parrots, pheasants, wild ducks and snakes can also be found. Cambodia has 16 globally endangered species including the Asian elephant, Siamese crocodile, and wild water buffalo. Although Cambodia faces many challenges in maintaining its rich wildlife, much work is being done to help conserve and protect their unique wildlife.
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, located in an area of Tonlè Sap recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve, is an easy and interesting place to see avian wildlife and contribute to sustainable development for the local community. There are a significant number of rare bird breeds, including storks that gather here. December to April is a good time to see a massive concentration of birds, but any day during the early morning or late afternoon is the best time. Khiri Cambodia can arrange an overnight with Prek Toal’s environment office to facilitate the best bird watching times.
Wildlife Alliance, an NGO conservation organization, is doing some great work in Cambodia. We strongly recommend a visit to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) for guests traveling around Phnom Penh. Here Wildlife Alliance helps empower the local community to aide in the recovery and rehabilitation of animals rescued from the wildlife trade. The animals that are saved by the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) are relocated to the center and each individual is assessed for release based on their health and strength to survive independently. It is now home to over 1,200 animals, and no animal in need is ever turned away. This is a great chance to interact with Cambodian wildlife in an ecologically responsible and sustainable way. At the center visitors can get up and close with elephants, tigers, leopards, gibbons and other wild animals.
There are a variety of other organizations in Cambodia helping to conserve the wildlife such as Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna and Flora International, and BirdLife International.
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Photo of Birds by oldandsolo