Cambodia is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Rare wildlife species, for example, grace the national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and the wilderness. Most of these species are classified as endangered due to their minimal population owed to poaching and also the evolution and extinction process of mother nature.
For your Cambodian visit, here are 7 cool native animals that you must see while in Cambodia.
1. Irrawaddy Dolphin
Only 92 of these small, shy, and dark grey dolphins inhabit the short stretch of the Mekong River, from Kratie to the Laos-Cambodia border- according to WWF Cambodia.
For around 10 US dollars, visitors can board a fishing boat to see the dolphins. They are seldom active but do make occasional low leaps.
The Irrawaddy Dolphin has a life expectancy of about 30 years.
During the wet season, the dolphins can be spotted through flooded forests from a 20-minute boat ride, while during the dry season, the Dolphins venture further into the river, and it can take up to double the time to see them.
2. Sun Bear
The sun bear is the smallest and most endangered among the world’s eight living bear species. According to legend, this bear’s name is derived from the golden/white bib-shaped patch on its chest, which is said to resemble the rising sun. The sun bear has an average life span of up to 25 years and spends the majority of its life on treetops.
This bear grows to only about half the size of an American black bear and feeds on fruits, small rodents, birds, termites, and honey.
The sun bear is listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list mostly because of its continued poaching for use in traditional medicine. It once had its habitat in the lowland forests of South-East Asia.
Still, it can now be found in protected areas such as the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and Mondulkiri Protected Forest.
3. Pygmy Slow Loris
Not much is known about their ecology due to their nocturnal and mysterious nature. This cute animal is the only existing venomous primate.
The indigenous Bunong popularly hunts them for use in traditional Khmer medicine, which explains their dwindling population.
The Pygmy Slow Loris is predominantly found in the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary.
4. Clouded Leopard
This is another reclusive and nocturnal animal whose ecology still baffles animal researchers. The clouded leopard spends its time hiding on treetops and has occasionally been caught by camera traps in Cambodia’s Eastern Plains of Mondulkiri province.
Since 2008, this leopard species has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list due to loss of habitat and extreme poaching. However, visitors can see the clouded leopard at Phnom Tamao Rescue Center, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
The organization rescues animals from poachers and illegal trade and rehabilitates them before releasing the animals into their natural habitat.
5. Sunda Pangolin
These critically endangered species are prevalently poached for their meat and scales used in traditional medicines. Sunda Pangolins comprise long snouts and tongues used to slurp insects which are their main diets.
WWF Cambodia categorizes pangolins as one of the most prized animals in the illegal wildlife trade. Pangolins rescued from poachers can be seen at Phnom Tamao Rescue Centre, where they are rehabilitated before being released into the wild.
6. Germain’s Silver Langur
These are slender monkeys that inhabit the forests of Mondulkiri’s Eastern Plains. According to wildlife conservationists, their survival remains at risk due to their constant hunting for use in traditional medicines. Adult Germain’s silver langurs boast silver-grey fur, while young Silver langurs are covered in ginger-orange fur.
Also known as Tembadau, the Banteng is one of the wild cattle species. They can mainly be found in the Eastern landscape plains of Cambodia, including the Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, where rigorous conservation efforts are underway to protect them against extinction. However, diseases and parasites remain a major threat to their existence.
Due to its biodiversity, Cambodia is home to many endangered wildlife species. Spicing up your Cambodian travel itinerary by visiting a national park/wildlife sanctuary is highly recommended.