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Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest

by Wildlife Alliance
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Help Bring Wildlife Back to Angkor Forest
Exciting news! Photo by Joshua Prieto
Exciting news! Photo by Joshua Prieto

Our efforts to restore wildlife back into the forests surrounding the Angkor Temples are progressing smoothly.

Muntjac Deer (Muntiacus vaginalis) – Least Concern

The muntjac we released in September are still around and come individually to take some of the food we put down for them most nights. What they leave behind is eaten by the limited wild animals that still survive in the forest. Providing food for animals post release, not only eases their transition into the wild but also allows us to continue monitoring the animals and ensure their safety and health.

Pileated Gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) - Endangered

Baray, Saranick, and their youngsters, Ping-Peeung (Web spider) and Chung-ruth (Cricket), are doing very well. They have adapted to the treetops better than we could have hoped and although they are not afraid of people they are becoming less inclined to interact and we hope that in time they will become more remote.

Bayon, Tevy and their two youngsters, Aping (Tarantula) and Kandop (Grasshopper), are also fine. There seemed to be a small problem developing between mother and father as Tevy was clearly a little scared of Bayon at feeding time and appeared reluctant to feed when he was close by. However, our staff hoisted a second feed basket into the trees which seems to have helped restore harmony to the relationship at meal times.

Borey and Pompoi, our third pair of gibbons we are rehabilitating at the Takao Gate (around two kilometers from Bayon and Tevy) have settled well. They are clearly mistrustful of people and the female, Pompoi, hides away in her blue sleeping barrel whenever we approach – a good sign for the future.

Silvered Langurs (Trachypithecus germaini) - Endangered

We seldom get reports about the 14 silvered langurs we translocated from an island off the coast to Angkor, but these are wild arboreal animals and their their habits along with the improved security that is now being employed in Angkor ensures their safety.

Smooth Coated Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) - Vulnerable

Nowadays, there seems to be more interest in our work to restore wildlife to the Angkor forest from Apsara, the authorities we work with in Siem Reap. Following their request for us to submit a list of animals we felt could survive here, they asked us to bring otters to Angkor to prepare for release. In order to acclimatize the otters to their new home in the forest, we will customize the old muntjac rehabilitation enclosure to make it otter proof. This involves enlarging the existing pool and placing tin around the top of the enclosure fencing to stop them from climbing out. The next step is to relocate a family of otters from Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center to the enclosure. Releasing otters, which can be nomadic, into Angkor is a brave step and whether is turns out to be a good idea only time will tell. We have been given the opportunity to give these animals a life outside of a cage, which we will take and we – and the otters – will learn from the experience.

Photo by Joshua Prieto
Photo by Joshua Prieto
Photo by Joshua Prieto
Photo by Joshua Prieto

Our work to restore appropriate wildlife back into the forests surrounding the Angkor Temples seems to be progressing well, if fairly quietly. The muntjac we released in September are still around and come individually to take some of the food we put down for them on most nights. Bunthoun’s camera traps give evidence that nothing has befallen them so far. We also recorded photos of other species including porcupines, civets and different species of squirrels. Nothing earth-shattering, but interesting, nonetheless.

Bayon, Tevy and their two youngsters are well. Second baby, Kandop has grown and is now more confident among the branches, although he still travels attached to mother, Tevy, when longer distances are involved. Baray, Saranick and their youngsters, Pingpeeung (Web Spider) and Chungruth (Cricket) are also doing very well. We were asked by Apsara, the authorities in Angkor, to conduct the first gibbon release near Tanei Temple, close to the recently implemented zip line, then called Flight of the Gibbon. At that time I did not feel I could argue and we proceeded. Staff ‘on the ground’ operating the zip line have always been helpful and any small problems have always been easily remedied. The company changed hands and is now called Angkor Zipline. The new company seems less switched on to what we are doing, although the new owners seem to enjoy the association without acknowledging us. They have cut a path in the forest for Zipline guests, which directly passes the feed site for Baray and his family. This could be unwise and if it causes any problems these should be easily solved.

Having removed most of the troupe, we were requested to capture the four remaining silvered langurs on Koh Krabie, an island that is being developed off the southwest coast. Sitheng, Chenda, and the team managed to capture a female and her youngster, leaving two monkeys on the island. Bunthoeun and I transported the two captured langurs to Angkor on October 31st and we released them at Lake Santamea, the same place we released the 12 other langurs we captured. These are wild animals, the translocation has gone very well, we have not encountered any problems and we expect this to continue. Although not directly our responsibility, I was concerned for the safety of these beautiful primates if left on the island and managed to find the funds to ensure their survival, albeit in a different forest.

We recaptured the third pair of gibbons we released at Takao Gate in Angkor, as they proved unsuitable. Mr. Savath, the Apsara forest manager, who has been so helpful in the management of this project, suggested we move their release enclosure a little deeper into the forest, which has now been done. The situation is more appropriate and on November 28th we took another young pair up to start their acclimatization. At three years old these will still be too young for release for at least another year. However, they were born at PTWRC and raised by their mothers. They are wary of people and disinclined to approach. I am sure they will do well in this remote patch of Angkor forest when their time for freedom arrives.

Bayon, Tevy, Aping, and Kandop
Bayon, Tevy, Aping, and Kandop

Our work to restore wildlife populations back into the Angkor Temples forest appears to be progressing better following our presentation at the International Coordination Committee (ICC) conference, also attended by UNESCO. It appears we may have allayed any fears Apsara, the ruling body in Angkor, may have had that our intentions were anything other than for purposes of conservation. Our pair of muntjac deer, which we brought to Angkor in 2015 are breeding well. A third fawn was born. Bunthoeun and I were concerned that if we could not release the deer soon they would start inbreeding and we may need to move them elsewhere. Sadly the new fawn disappeared, we feel probably eaten by a python living in the forest. The remaining four muntjac are in excellent condition and Apsara officials finally agreed to allow us to release them, which we did. The deer left the enclosure on the night of release, but the female was back inside the following morning. All are still close by and enter their old enclosure on occasions. They continue to take the food we are providing outside the release cage. We have our concerns about the dogs in the forest, which may attack the deer. If they do we will deal with the problem when it happens. We would like to release other, rarer ground-dwelling species, such as sambar deer and peafowl, and the muntjac are to some extent guinea pigs and will give us information concerning the wisdom of this idea.

I have confidence in our staff in Angkor. Sarin and his son, Rith, have been exemplary throughout. Sarin usually feeds the muntjac and is the perfect hoofed stock keeper, calling them as he approaches. The deer are unafraid of him nowadays but behave very differently when Bunthoeun and I are around. Rith is of the same mold, thinks like the animals he is working with, which helps keep him one step ahead. The two men are as concerned about their charges as we are and will do their utmost to ensure the safety of the muntjac.

Baray and Saranick, the pair of young adult pileated gibbons born at PTWRC, who we took to Angkor in Siem Reap on June 29th, 2013 and released on December 12th and their baby, Pingpeeung or Spider, born on September 3rd, 2014 continue to do well. Spider is growing well and becoming more independent, traveling confidently through the trees on her own – we feel Spider is a she – although she never strays far from her family. The second baby, Chungruth, born to the pair on July 6th, 2017 is also well. Father, Baray, and older sister, Spider are protective of mother and new infant.

The second pair of gibbons, Bayon and Tevy, which we brought to Angkor in 2014 are also well. They were released on June 30th, 2015 and are still in the immediate vicinity of the release enclosure, returning to take the supplementary food we are providing twice each day. Aping, born on June 30th, 2016 is well and growing fast.

When I visited in July I discussed Tevy’s expanding condition with Rith and Sarin. Sure enough, she gave birth to her second infant on August 2nd, while Bunthoeun and I were in Siem Reap, checking on our released animals. Continuing the insect theme, we have called the new arrival Kandop (or Grasshopper). The new baby is doing well. 

Banteay, Boeung and their daughter, Santamea, the gibbons we released, which proved unsuitable candidates for Angkor, we took back to PTWRC on September 6th.  They happily show their dislike of our Nursery keepers, as they did in Angkor with Sarin and Rith before. They were adult when they arrived at PTWRC, having been hand raised elsewhere, their previous care clearly being the reason for their behavior and justifying our concern about releasing hand raised gibbons into Angkor.

His Excellency Hang Peou, the Apsara official in charge of our project in Angkor, has asked us for a list of animals we would like to release there. This has been submitted. I included species that we may not have in sufficient numbers at present and which FA may not agree to.  I have also included species that may cause officials some concern – crocodiles? clouded leopards? It is good to know that this project, perhaps because we have shown responsibility towards our released animals or perhaps because of my brief presentation at the ICC meeting, is now being looked on more favorably. We will see what the future holds for wildlife in Angkor…

Released Muntjac in excellent condition
Released Muntjac in excellent condition
Saranick and Chung-ruth
Saranick and Chung-ruth
Baray and Saranick with Chung-ruth
Baray and Saranick with Chung-ruth

There have been no untoward events taking place with the two pairs of pileated gibbons we released into the Angkor forest. Baray and Saranick, the first pair and their two youngsters are doing well. Bayon and Tevy also seem content, although we got a scare in May when their young daughter, Aping, suddenly became withdrawn and frightened, refusing to approach her parents. The next day she was fine again and we feel she may have been stung by an insect. Judging by the condition of her mother it looks like Aping may soon be joined by a sibling. The muntjac we are preparing for release look extremely healthy! The original pair has now doubled to four and unless I am mistaken it looks like this will increase again very soon.

The recapture of the captive-born langurs we released in 2014 was unfortunate, but the fact there was a problem, which we immediately resolved indicates how seriously we take this project and we hope will reflect well with the authorities we work within Angkor. Developers asked us to remove a troupe of around 30 silvered langurs from an island off the coast. Our request to release these in Angkor was agreed to by Apsara, indicating that this may be the case and the governing authorities appreciate our integrity and professionalism.

Muntjac evening feed
Muntjac evening feed

The first two pairs of pileated gibbons we released into the forest surrounding the ancient temples of Angkor are well. They have adapted perfectly and have now produced three wild-born babies between them, Chung-ruth, being the youngest infant, born in July 2017. We continue to monitor them and provide supplementary food, which acts as a management tool rather than provision of sustenance, which they no longer need.

A third pair of gibbons were released earlier this year but, unfortunately, had to be recaptured after the female became aggressive towards the keepers providing supplemental food. Fortunately, a new gibbon pair, born at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center has been identified as ideal candidates for this release program. The gibbons have been given a clean bill of health, but are still quite young and may require a longer acclimatization period in forest enclosures than usual.

We are disappointed in the recent turn of events, but things had been progressing well and were due for a obstacle. We are still proud of this release program because no one has ever attempted to release this endangered species into Angkor, or anywhere in Cambodia. If it were easy, it would have been done before!

Thank you for your support of our efforts to rewild the Angkor forests!  

 

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Organization Information

Wildlife Alliance

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Jessica Knierim
Development Associate
New York, NY United States

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