Cambodia is home to a large number of rare and endangered mammal species thanks to its large variety of different habitats.
In the remote forest of Cambodia’s Eastern Plains wild cattle and deer species in addition to predators such as leopards and tigers are still to be found.
Endangered Mammals of Cambodia
Cambodia is home to many mammal species that at one time would have flourished throughout the forests of Southeast Asia.
The Lower Mekong Dry Forest region have globally significant populations of wild cattle and deer species in addition to the Indochinese tiger and Asian elephant. In total there are 16 globally endangered and 2 critically endangered mammal species that live in Cambodia.
The largest population of Asian elephants in Cambodia are to be found in the Eastern Plains of Mondulkiri province. Camera-trap photos and sign surveys in the Eastern Plains area show a healthy and reproducing population. As human population increases, these valuable habitats will come under threat through encroachment, logging and farming.
Through the work of organisations such as, WWF Cambodia and the Mondulkiri Project, great progress is being made to protect large areas of forest habitat for the Asian Elephant and the plethora of other species that live there.
Asiatic Black Bear
Asiatic black bears are considered endangered and are rarely encountered in Cambodia’s forests. Photographic evidence of the species is extremely uncommon, however, there have been intermittent reports of sightings from rangers and locals living in the remoter corners of Mondulkiri province.
Unfortunately, the Asiatic black bear has been overhunted throughout history in Southeast Asia due to the use of its body parts being used in traditional medicine. The population is also under threat through habitat loss caused by logging and human expansion but it is hoped that the species can recover in protected forest areas of the Eastern Plains.
Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful of all wild cattle species. Cambodia has seen a dramatic loss in banteng populations between the 1970’s and today. Presently, Cambodia is home to several hundred individuals that live in the Eastern Plains where protection efforts have stabilised the population decline.
Like other endangered species, Cambodia’s banteng population is under pressure from habitat loss in addition to banteng being hunted for trophies and meat. Because of the diseases and parasites that result from domestic livestock, WWF Cambodia is enforcing a ban on all domestic cattle in the strict protection zones of the Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary.
The black-shanked douc is one of the most identifiable primates with its black hind limbs that contrast with its grey body and pale blue face. Cambodia’s eastern province of Mondulkiri holds the largest population of black-shanked douc in the world: In Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, 42,000 individuals have been estimated to live there with smaller populations in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary as well as Mondulkiri Protected Forest.
Another endangered douc species, the red-shanked douc has also recently been confirmed as living in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province. All species of douc are native to Indochina and contribute to the incredible biodiversity in the region.
The clouded leopard is a secluded, largely nocturnal cat that spends most of its life in trees. There have been very few sightings of this animal anywhere in the world, however, the presence of this magnificent species has been confirmed by images from camera traps in the Eastern Plains in Mondulkiri province. Like most large cats, the clouded leopard is under threat from hunting and loss of its habitat, making areas of protected forest crucial for the species.
Dhole (Asiatic Wild Dog)
Dhole is a species of wild dog native to Southeast Asia that has experienced a dramatic drop in population in the past 50 years. It is now classified as a globally endangered species with an estimated 2,500 adults remaining.
In Cambodia, dholes reside in protected forested areas in the Eastern Plains. Disease transmission from domestic dogs is a significant threat to this species, which is why there is a strict “no dogs”-policy in the protected areas. After an outbreak of a canine infection in 2011-2012, thought to have been transmitted from domestic dogs, the populations are slowly recovering since 2015.
Eld’s deer have a distinctive thick mane and bow shaped antlers and occupy the Lower Mekong Dry Forest region. In contrast to the more common Sambar deer, Eld’s deer prefer drier, open forests.
The Eld’s deer is considered highly endangered with the only significant numbers remaining in northern and eastern lowland forest in Cambodia. As a result, the small groups that are sparsely distributed in Cambodia’s Eastern Plains are highly significant for the survival of this magnificent species.
As the name implies, the fishing cat predominantly feeds on fish and is an excellent swimmer and diver needed to catch its prey.
Unfortunately, illegal poaching is a threat to this species, and its strong preference for wetland habitats has led to population declines in the last 20 years.
There have been recent images recorded on camera traps of the fishing cat which shows that there is a small remaining population in some of Cambodia’s wetland areas. With conservation efforts to help stop the illegal poaching, human encroachment and overfishing in its habitats, it is hoped the population can stabilise and recover to greater numbers.
The Irrawaddy is a small dolphin, dark grey in colour with a pale underside and a small rounded dorsal fin. The Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin is the personification of the Mekong River and its incredible biodiversity.
The Mekong River in Cambodia is the world’s most important remaining freshwater habitat for this species and supports the largest of the five freshwater populations that remain globally.
Thanks to the work of the Cambodian Mekong Dolphin Conservation Project and intensive conservation measures, the population in the Cambodian stretch of the Mekong is slowly increasing.
Thanks to recent camera traps images from Cambodian’s Eastern Plains, there is now a confirmed small population of leopards living in this area.
This population is critically important due to the fact that the species is extinct in Singapore, Vietnam and Laos and drastically diminishing in Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia.
Pygmy Slow Lorises
Pygmy lorises have recently been sighted within Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia’s Eastern Plain. They are a species of primate found east of the Mekong River in eastern Cambodia, southern China, Lao, and Vietnam. Due to their nocturnal, and largely unknown nature, very little is known of their ecology.
The local Bunlong people who are a minority people living in Mondulkiri province and Khmer people hunt lorises for use in traditional medicine.
Protected areas in eastern Cambodia such as Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary are vitally important sanctuaries for this largely unstudied primate.
The Indochinese tiger was once common throughout most of Southeast Asia, but like many of the endangered species found in Cambodia, it is now severely under threat.
The main reason the tiger population is at a dangerous level is that of hunting and illegal poaching due to the strong demand for tiger skins, bones and teeth. The tiger’s habitat loss has severely threatened its numbers in addition to the decline in its target prey species.
The last tiger in Cambodia was seen was in 2007, however, the government and organisations working in the area are implementing schemes to reintroduce tigers to Mondulkiri’s Eastern Plains. According to some experts, Cambodia offers the highest potential landscape in Asia to recover tiger populations.