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Oct 3, 2019

Tracking Endangered Asian elephants

Tracking Endangered elephant footprints
Tracking Endangered elephant footprints

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) population in the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape is widely considered to be the most important in Cambodia and among the largest in Indochina. Vast expanses of intact forest, largely due to the stringent protection from Wildlife Alliance, has allowed this population of Endangered elephants to remain safe and stable. Although our rangers patrol in elephant habitat every day, it is not often that they actually spot an elephant. While these pachyderms are massive creatures, they are light on their feet and camouflage incredibly well into the terrain and dense vegetation. In order to monitor the elephant population, our rangers track signs of elephants, such as dung piles and footprints and capture photographs using camera traps. While on a recent patrol, rangers from the Siamese Crocodile Station (Chhay Areang) found such evidence. Unfortunately, on the same patrol they found and dismantled 155 poaching snares including one with a live civet trapped which the rangers successfully rescued and released back into the forest.

While snares are not set with the intent to capture elephants and are meant to capture wildlife such as wild pig and sambar deer for the bushmeat market, elephants are often caught too. A survey of the Southern Cardamom elephant population found that of 7 calves identified, 4 had severe snare injuries and three older elephants had trunk lacerations from snares. These high levels of snare injuries could be causing an unnaturally high level of infant mortality, jeopardizing the recovery of this vital elephant population.

By monitoring the elephant population, our rangers know where to prioritize their patrols to protect this iconic Endangered species. Last year, Wildlife Alliance rangers removed 19,986 snares from the Cardamom Rainforest and have achieved zero elephant poaching since 2006.

Herd of Asian elephants in the Cardamom Mountains
Herd of Asian elephants in the Cardamom Mountains

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Sep 26, 2019

Angkor - otterly enchanting!

Chung-ruth steals food from Saranick
Chung-ruth steals food from Saranick

Bayon and Tevy, the second pair of gibbons we released, are well and their two babies, A-ping and Gondope are growing well. The latter is becoming precociously independent. Tevy continues to show concern at the proximity of Bayon at feed time and we have partially solved this by hoisting a second feed basket up into the trees a few meters away.

Pompoy and Borei, the youngsters we are preparing for release and well and showing less fear of people. Previously Pompoy seemed unnaturally concerned when we approached in the evenings, hiding herself away in her sleeping barrel, but is now easier in our presence.

Baray and Saranick and their two youngsters, Ping-peeung and Chung-ruth, are well. There have been minor issues with these gibbons. The release site selected by Apsara is close to the on-site office of Angkor Zipline. The arrival of zipline customers and a large mirror, which hung on one of the inside walls of the roofed area encouraged male gibbon, Baray, to approach customers, enter the building, and admire his own reflection in the mirror. My colleague, Bunthoeun, who manages our release programs, has spoken to Mr. Savath, the Apsara forest manager, who is always so helpful and this problem has been addressed, the mirror has been removed and Baray is behaving himself once again – for the time being at least.

The muntjac we released are still around, although no longer return to eat the food we give them and we have ceased providing this. They are still seen around by Angkor forestry staff, so far confounding my concerns that dogs living in Angkor may kill them. The silvered langurs we captured from an island off the south west coast of Cambodia and trans-located to Angkor last year are also surviving well.

After discussing it for what seemed like an eternity, we have at last moved the family of smooth-coated otters we plan to release, from PTWRC, to their new enclosure in Angkor. Otters are hyperactive and can quickly fade if kept confined for too long. The capture and journey to Siem reap concerned me. In the event I need not have worried. Capturing five otters is not an easy task, but I had already made arrangements with their keeper on how we should address this. We accomplished the capture without too much difficulty, starting early in the morning. The otters were loaded onto our truck in two travelling cages, which we covered in vegetation. After an initial travel period of anger and aggression, which we expected from them, the otters settled and took the journey unfazed and completely in their stride. We arrived in Siem Reap mid-afternoon and immediately released the otters into the old muntjac release enclosure which we had previously customized for them. They immediately set about exploring their new large home and have settled down extremely well. It is interesting to note, although perhaps unremarkable, the otters spend most of their time near the fence closest to the Angkor lakes, which although not far away, are not visible. Attempts have already been made to dig under the fence, which have concerned keepers, Sarin and Rith. I asked Bunthoeun to tell them not to worry. Otters are enchanting animals: intelligent and inquisitive! If our friends find their own way to freedom before we get around to opening the door, what is the problem? This is what we have in mind for them anyway!

Otters enjoying their new pre-release enclosure
Otters enjoying their new pre-release enclosure
Aug 9, 2019

50 Critically Endangered turtles rescued from wildlife traffickers

50 yellow-headed temple turtles rescued
50 yellow-headed temple turtles rescued

Last month, Cambodia’s Economic Police intercepted a truck illegally transporting wildlife, including 57 monitor lizards and 50 yellow-headed temple turtles, which are Critically Endangered. Turtles are some of the most trafficked animals in Southeast Asia, largely for traditional medicine and meat and is driving many species towards extinction. Upon confiscating the wildlife, the Economic Police called the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) to handle and release the reptiles.

The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team has been Cambodia’s only law enforcement dedicated to countering wildlife crime since 2001 and while they have been very effective – having rescued nearly 75,000 animals from the wildlife trade – they are a small team with a nation-wide mandate. Getting calls like the one from the Economic Police are always welcome as it is a positive indicator that wildlife crimes are being taken more seriously and our efforts to collaborate with other law enforcement units has been effective.

The WRRT brought the water monitors to the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape where they were released with one of our ranger teams. The yellow-headed temple turtles, which are nearing extinction, were brought to and released in Tonle Sap Lake in collaboration with Fisheries Administration officers.

Your support of the WRRT has enabled us to shift attitudes towards taking wildlife trafficking as a serious crime throughout Cambodia.

Critically Endangered turtles return to the wild
Critically Endangered turtles return to the wild
 
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