Cambodia is home to an incredible array of bird species, in addition, the Mekong River is also home to several endangered fish species and the Siamese Crocodile which are considered critically endangered.
Endangered Birds of Cambodia
The diverse habitats in Cambodia are sanctuaries for many endangered bird species. They include waterbirds such as the giant ibis and white-shouldered ibis in addition to three species of vultures.
The Giant Ibis
The giant ibis is considered critically endangered due to the widespread loss of its natural habitats and deforestation.
This giant ibis has recently been declared Cambodia’s national bird, and the conservation efforts in the country are essential to its survival as a species.
Greater adjutants are large and distinctive members of the stork family that predominantly feed on small prey species on land and water.
The global population has seen a massive decrease in recent years due to habitat loss and human exploitation with the human population estimated to be between 150-200 individuals.
Cambodia is the only place in the world besides from some regions of Northeast India where the species still breeds. Roughly two-thirds of the Cambodian population can be found on Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve with the remainder congregating in Mondulkiri Northern Plains and on the Mekong River north of Kratie.
Strict enforcement of laws protecting nesting sites is required to protect the birds from egg and chick poachers.
The green peafowl was once common throughout the forested lowlands of Southeast Asia, however, the green peafowl has undergone a rapid decline in recent decades. In the Indochina region, just a few populations survive in Cambodia’s northern and eastern provinces and isolated regions of Vietnam.
Due to its beautiful appearance, the green peafowl faces a threat of hunting for its feathers, meat and for the illegal pet trade.
Strict conservation measures in Cambodia’s protected regions will help this stunning bird to increase in population numbers and ensure the survival of the species.
The Sarus crane is reported as being the tallest flying bird in the world, with some birds growing as tall as 1.8 meters.
The Indochina subspecies has experienced a huge reduction in numbers in the past 50 years with current population numbers thought to be less than 1000 individuals. The majority of this population is confined to Cambodia and remote areas of Lao and Vietnam. In Cambodia, efforts are being made to educate local communities against hunting and protect the nesting sites of these incredible birds.
Endangered Reptiles of Cambodia
Cambodia is a refuge for several endangered reptile species including holding the only globally significant populations of the Siamese crocodile.
In addition, there has recently been a turtle species rediscovered that was previously thought to be extinct, the Cantor’s giant softshell turtle.
The Siamese crocodile is generally considered one of the world’s most endangered reptiles. Cambodia’s Mekong River basin and wetlands hold the only remaining wild populations, unfortunately even these are scattered and diminished because of hunting and habitat loss.
Recent surveys in the Srepok River in Mondulkiri protected forest have found between 100 and 300 wild adults remain in this area. With more information being gained through research on the species coupled with the habitat protection on the Srepok River it is hoped the species can start to recover in numbers.
The elongated tortoise is, unfortunately, the most encountered species when confiscating animals in Mondulkiri province. They are quite common to be bred and kept domestically, although wild individuals are becoming increasingly endangered. They have a distinctive elongated shell, noticeably flatter than other tortoise species and often have a pale yellow coloured head.
They are endemic to the southern and eastern Mekong plains as well as the Cardamom Mountains. The species is under pressure from the collection for the illegal pet and meat trade, but with thanks to groups such as WWF Cambodia, the species is recovering in the Mondulkiri Eastern Plains.
Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle
Cantor’s giant softshell turtle is recognized by its broad head with eyes that sit close to the snout giving it a frog-like appearance, and its name in Khmer is “Frog Head Turtle”.
Until its recent rediscovery, they were thought to be extinct although now Cambodia is believed to hold significant populations in its estuaries, swamps and mudflats with confirmed breeding pairs in the Mekong River.
The same as most softshell turtles, they are easily collected for the local and international illegal pet trade.
Endangered Fish in Cambodia
The Mekong River is home to some of the most magnificent fish species in the world. Unique species such as the Giant Mekong Catfish and Giant Freshwater Stingray live in the vast waters and deep pools along the Mekong River. In terms of fish diversity, the Mekong Basin is only eclipsed by the Amazon River whose basin is six times larger in size.
Giant Mekong Catfish
The Giant Mekong Catfish is a species that epitomizes the Mekong River and its incredible biodiversity. As one of the largest species of freshwater fish in the world, individuals can grow in excess of 300 kilograms.
It was previously found throughout the Mekong river system but now, due mainly to overfishing and habitat loss is only found in isolated populations mainly in Cambodia’s northern stretches of the river.
Like the Irrawaddy dolphin, it is officially one of the Mekong River’s flagship species, used as a monitor of the water and habitat quality of the river and all the many species that live there.
Giant Freshwater Stingray
The giant freshwater stingray is probably the biggest freshwater fish in the world with recorded individuals growing over 650 kilograms. Giant freshwater stingrays have been under rapid decline in Thailand, where the species is now listed as critically endangered.
Presently, not much research has been done on the population size in Cambodia with the most credible evidence of the species still coming from local fisherman reports. With population surveys planned, soon the giant Mekong catfish should be able to increase in numbers through suitable education and conservation initiatives.