Native Animals in Cambodia - The Complete Guide

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Cambodia is rich in wildlife and a variety of amazing species are in this country’s incredible collection of fauna. It is home to a wide range of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Sadly, many of these wonderful species are endangered and are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data list. Some of the endangered species of this country are pangolin (scaly anteater), clouded leopard, kouprey (jungle cow), tiger, soft-nosed turtle, Asian elephant, pileated gibbon, and guar (large wild ox). Species like Indichine Tigers have become functionally extinct in Cambodia which is one of the most crucial wildlife species in the country. However, Cambodia has been developing ecotourism and there are many initiatives across the country to conserve nature and protect the species. They have definitely made progress in improving the wildlife population of particular species.

Here Are the Native Animals in Cambodia You Should Know about -

1. Irrawaddy Dolphin

Irrawaddy Dolphin is one of the native species in Cambodia that is endangered. From being widespread species in the country, now they are only found in the short stretch of the Mekong River that extends from Kratie to the border between Laos and Cambodia. If you are in Kratie trying experiences through ecotourism, you can spot them there better than other places. There used to be several thousands of these dolphin species in the 1960s but World Wildlife Forum (WWF) of Cambodia estimated very few of them. In one of the ecotourism tours in Kampi in Kratie province, tourists and visitors can board fishing boats to see the Irrawaddy species of Dolphins for just about $10. During the wet season, the dolphins can be seen after a minimum of a twenty-minute ride through the flooded forests but during the dry season, winds push the dolphin species further into the river. This takes 40 minutes in total to reach them. Several initiatives are started in Cambodia to save such species from the verge of extinction.

2. Giant Ibis

The Giant Ibis is the national bird of Cambodia and is on the critically endangered list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A small population of these species is found in the northern area of Preah Vihear that is near to the Thai border and Mondulkiri. Conservation is crucial for these species and they forage in water. Sam Veasna Center in Cambodia is completely devoted to conserving the country’s national bird species whose populations are declining at faster rates. The center also takes tourists on a series of tours that give them a chance to see the species of giant ibis and a variety of other birds and wildlife of Cambodia. The national bird of Cambodia, Giant Ibis is unique in being the largest species of Ibis in the world. 

3. Clouded Leopard

Clouded Leopard is Cambodia’s shy and nocturnal feline species that spends most of its time hiding at the top of the forest trees. It is difficult to spot them out in the open because they always hide and no one can actually watch them when they are out in the night. However, the cameras in the Eastern Plains Landscape of Mondulkiri have caught the species of Clouded Leopards on tape while they are hiding on the treetops.  You can also find them at Phnom Tamao Rescue Center operated by the NGO, Wildlife Alliance and also on the outskirts of the Phnom Penh area, where many more species of animals are rescued from the dangers of illegal practices like trade and poaching. They are also rehabilitated before the experts release them back into their natural habitat. As there is an extreme threat to species of the clouded leopard due to wildlife hunting and habitat loss, they are an endangered condition but Cambodia is working its ways to save these species.  

4. Asiatic Elephant

The species of Asian Elephants in Cambodia are the largest in population in Mondulkiri, which is actually home to Southeast Asia’s one of the last few elephant corridors. Though it is rare and difficult to spot the wild elephants in Cambodia, there are many opportunities for tourists to spend valuable time with these beautiful mammals in closure. Projects like the Elephant Valley Project and others are an excellent chance at exploring the ecotourism aspect of Cambodia. These projects take care of aged and overworked elephants which also offer tours for visitors. You must not expect an elephant ride because the whole essence of ecotourism and saving the endangered species is to take care of them. In fact, even the organizations are strongly against such practices as they want to conserve the species but not take them closer to death. 

5. Sunda Pangolin

In the last 15 years, the population of The Sunda Pangolin species in Cambodia has been reduced to more than half across the country. There are various reasons for this decrease in the population of species like the extreme practice of hunting for various purposes like medicinal, commercial, and many more. The World Wildlife Forum (WWF) of Cambodia considers the species of Pangolins as one of the most prized animals among the illegal trading of wildlife as they are frequently confiscated from poachers, hunters, and traffickers. These rescued species are taken to Phnom Tamao Rescue Centre where you can go for tours and watch the rescued animals being prepared for their release into the wild. 

6. Banteng

The populations of Banteng are considered to be one of the most beautiful and graceful species among all the cattle in the wild in Cambodia. By the 1960s, the population numbers have decreased by 95% and this is one of the fastest population decline rates in Cambodia according to its World Wildlife Forum (WWF). Most of these species can be found in the Eastern Plains of Cambodia today and so many initiatives have started at this place to preserve the populations of Banteng. This has led to the population’s stabilization in such areas. However, practices like poaching and trafficking lead to habitat loss and still remain as the main threat to animals such as Banteng species. 

7. Germain's Silver Langur

Germain’s Silver Langur is the slender monkey species that inhabit the semi-evergreen, evergreen forests, and also forest areas along rivers in Cambodia. The adult species of Germain’s Silver Magur are grey in colour while their younger species are of distinctive ginger color. These Langur species are relatively common even today compared to other wildlife species in Cambodia. However, the Langurs are mostly found in the Mondulkiri’s Eastern Plains and though they are in the average population index, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Cambodia estimates that even Langurs population has declined by half in recent years because of hunting and their use in traditional medicinal purposes. 

8. Pygmy Slow Loris

The populations of Pygmy Slow Loris are mostly found in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia. The slow lorises are primates that look so beautiful and everyone finds them so cute. They are found to the east of Cambodia on the Mekong River and Cambodians say that these species are the cutest native wildlife in the country. They are nocturnal in nature and very little is known about their way of life. However, their populations were declined in the last decade and it is due to various reasons like they are hunted by indigenous Bunong for traditional medicine and are taken by traffickers too. The slow loris species are also one of the popular ingredients in traditional Khmer medicine.

9. Yellow-cheeked Crested Gibbon

Yellow-Cheeked Crested Gibbons are much sought-after afters that is mostly found in the northeastern parts of Cambodia, southern Vietnam and southern Laos but Cambodia is home to the largest populations of these Gibbon species. According to a survey, Eastern Plains of Mondulkiri’s Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary is the place having the second largest number of the species in Cambodia but comes only after Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area. However, these crested gibbons are threatened by the illegal pet trading activities and their habitat is also diminished. The local consumption of gibbon species is still prevalent in Cambodia as a good source of protein, especially in rural areas.  

10. Sun Bear

Among the world’s eight living bear species, the sun bear is the smallest and rarest. They have an excellent ability to climb and they spend most of their lives hiding at the top of the trees and eat sweet fruits, small rodents, birds, termites, and honey. These Sun Bear species were initially found in the lowland forests of Southeast Asia but however, some of them are remaining in protected areas of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. They are also classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable species. Sun Bears are hunted by poachers and caught by traffickers illegally as these bear species are considered to be a popular ingredient in Cambodia’s traditional medicine. You can visit these species at Phnom Tamao Rescue Centre during one of its tours for visitors. 

11. Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle

Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle species is almost extinct in Cambodia like many other species. They are found in the short stretch of the Mekong River in Kratie province and these turtles are freshwater species that can grow up to six feet in length. Despite being on the verge of extinction, softshell turtles populations are being given a boost through various ecotourism initiatives, conservation efforts, and breeding programs at the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre in Kratie. While going on the tours with the wildlife organizations, visitors can see the baby turtle species and can also learn more about the initiatives being taken by various NGOs and startups that are trying their best to conserve the species.

Conservation Efforts of the Wildlife in Cambodia

Scientists in Cambodia did not have access to its forest and wildlife sanctuaries until recently. Scientists are now conducting thorough studies of wildlife in the country. They have put efforts and actually discovered almost extinct Siamese Crocodiles in Cambodia. In fact, Giant ‘Royal’ Turtles were also discovered in the early 2000s in the southern part of the country after they were thought to be extinct for more than a century. Cambodia also has many sanctuaries and projects that are helpful and thoughtful for rare and endangered species of animals. Most of them are ecotourism sites that are also educational to visit. One of such places that protects the diverse wildlife of Cambodia is Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary that has put great efforts for the sake of wildlife.

Some important wildlife conservation organizations that are actively functional in Cambodia are Conservation International, Fauna and Flora International, Wildlife Alliance, World Wildlife Fund, BirdLife International, and many more efficient efforts. Though 70 percent of Cambodian lands are covered with dense forests and support the lives of thousands of unique species, there are still many animals that are on the endangered species list. Most of the unique species in Cambodia are now endangered and regardless of their survival, some of the many unique and native wildlife species in the country are listed below.

According to Article 48 of the Forest Law of 2002, Cambodian wildlife species come under state property. According to this law, the Forestry Administration (FA) of Cambodia is in charge of various research programs and different responsibilities towards the conservation of the wildlife. The Forestry Administration takes care of everything as such through the Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity. However, conservation programs by various NGOs and other startups often take place in cooperation between the government, local communities and the NGOs. Cambodia is one of the members of the Convention on Biological Diversity and is also responsible for issuing reports regarding the progress of biodiversity conservation in the country.

Cambodia is fighting for the conservation of its wildlife and it is an animal enthusiast’s dream. Because of efforts put by various organizations, the wonders of wildlife in Cambodia are in safe hands and are waiting to be discovered. Wildlife watching is one of the most common activities for tourists who visit Cambodia for ecotourism purposes or for those who visit for a luxurious and perfect holiday. River reptiles, jumbo elephants, and a free flee of birds are the most common sights of wildlife in Cambodia. The national parks in Cambodia are also a good place to watch the country’s wildlife and these spots for nature fanatics.

This post was published by Sravya Ronanki

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