Cambodian Wildlife and Nature

Updated on Jan 08, 2024 | Cambodia e-Visa

In this blog post, we will explore some of the amazing wildlife and nature of Cambodia, highlighting some of the species that are unique, rare, or threatened in this country.

Cambodia is a country rich in natural beauty and biodiversity, with a variety of landscapes, habitats, and wildlife. From the mighty Mekong River to the lush Cardamom Mountains, from the tropical rainforests to the dry deciduous forests, Cambodian wildlife offers a glimpse of some of the most diverse and endangered ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

We will also discuss some of the challenges and opportunities for conservation and ecotourism in Cambodia, and how you can help protect and enjoy its natural heritage.

Cambodian Wildlife

Cambodia is home to an incredible collection of wildlife, with at least 162 mammal species, 600 bird species, 176 reptile species (including 89 subspecies), 900 freshwater fish species, 670 invertebrate species, and more than 3000 plant species. Some of these species are endemic to Cambodia, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world, such as the Cambodian striped squirrel, the Cambodian tailorbird, and the Siamese crocodile.

If you are a wildlife lover and a nature fanatic, you might want to explore some of the best national parks in Cambodia on your next trip. Cambodia is not only famous for its ancient temples but also for its diverse and rich natural heritage, which covers around 40% of the country's land area. Here are some of the national parks that you should not miss when you visit this beautiful country.

Phnom Kulen National Park

This park is located on the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen, which is the birthplace of the Khmer Empire. The park is full of historical and religious attractions, such as the River of a Thousand Lingas, where Hindu symbols are carved on the riverbed, the reclining Buddha statue of Preah Ang Thom, and the ruins of Mahendraparvata. This ancient city was hidden under the jungle for centuries. The park also boasts of a stunning waterfall that was featured in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and a variety of wildlife, such as monkeys, birds, and butterflies.

Botum Sakor National Park

This park is one of the largest and most diverse national parks in Cambodian wildlife, covering an area of 1,700 square kilometers. It is part of the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape, which is one of the largest intact rainforests in Southeast Asia. The park is home to more than 45 species of mammals, including some endangered ones like the Indochinese tiger, the Asian elephant, and the Sunda pangolin. It also hosts more than 100 species of birds, some of which are rare and endemic. The park's landscape consists of evergreen forests, mangroves, swamps, and grasslands, offering a scenic backdrop for nature lovers.

Virachey National Park

This park is another gem of Cambodian wildlife, covering an area of 3,300 square kilometers. It is one of the most protected parks in Cambodia, and it is listed as an ASEAN Heritage Park. The park contains some of the most isolated and unexplored forests in Cambodia, which harbor a wealth of biodiversity.

Some of the animals that can be found here are gibbons, sun bears, clouded leopards, and hornbills. The park also has some ethnic minority communities living within its boundaries, who practice traditional lifestyles and cultures.

Ream National Park

This park is located near the coastal city of Sihanoukville, and it offers a unique combination of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The park covers an area of 210 square kilometers, which includes rivers, forests, mangroves, estuaries, beaches, coral reefs, islands, and mountains.

The park is a haven for marine life, such as dolphins, turtles, dugongs, and fish. It also supports a variety of terrestrial wildlife, such as monkeys, deer, civets, and otters. The park is also a popular destination for birdwatching, as it has more than 150 species of birds.

Kirirom National Park

This park is located about three hours away from Phnom Penh, and it is known for its pine forests and cool climate. The park covers an area of 350 square kilometers, and it has an elevation ranging from 600 to 800 meters above sea level.

The park has several trails that lead to waterfalls, cliffs, and viewpoints that offer spectacular views of the Cardamom Mountains. The park is also ideal for mountain biking and camping activities.

Kep National Park

This park is located near the seaside town of Kep, which is famous for its seafood and colonial architecture. The park covers an area of 50 square kilometers, and it surrounds a small mountain range that overlooks the Gulf of Thailand. The park has a well-maintained trail that circles around the mountain, passing through forests, plantations, pagodas, and caves. The park is also home to some wildlife, such as monkeys,

Amazing natural and cultural attractions may be found across Cambodia. Read more at Famous Cities in Cambodia.

Iconic and charismatic animals in Cambodian wildlife 

The Irrawaddy dolphin

This critically endangered dolphin can today only be found in a short stretch of the Mekong River, from Kratie to the Laos-Cambodia border. Once home to several thousand dolphins in the 1960s, today there are less than 85 remaining. The Irrawaddy dolphin is a symbol of Cambodian wildlife and identity, and a popular attraction for tourists who can take boat trips to see them in their natural habitat.

The banteng

This wild cattle is considered to be one of the most beautiful and graceful of its kind in Cambodia. The banteng is endangered due to habitat loss and illegal poaching for its horns and meat. The Eastern Plains of Cambodia is home to the largest population of banteng, where conservation efforts have helped stabilize their numbers.The banteng is also an important prey for predators like tigers and leopards.

The clouded leopard

This elusive and nocturnal cat is one of the rarest and most secretive animals in Cambodian wildlife. The clouded leopard has a distinctive coat pattern with dark spots and stripes on a light background. It spends most of its time hiding in the treetops, hunting for small mammals and birds. The clouded leopard is under threat from wildlife hunting and habitat loss and is rarely seen in the wild. Camera traps have captured some images of this cat in the Eastern Plains Landscape of Mondulkiri province.

The sun bear

The sun bear has black fur with a yellowish patch on its chest that resembles a rising sun. It has long claws and a long tongue to extract honey from bee nests. The sun bear is also known as the honey bear for its fondness for honey. The sun bear is vulnerable to poaching for its bile and gall bladder, which are used in traditional medicine, as well as habitat loss and fragmentation.

The Germain's silver langur

This slender monkey has silvery grey fur and a long tail. Its young are born with a distinctive ginger color that fades as they grow older. The Germain's silver langur lives in semi-evergreen and evergreen forests, as well as along rivers. It feeds mainly on leaves, fruits, flowers, and seeds. Germain's silver langur is still relatively common in Cambodia, but its population has declined due to hunting and habitat degradation.

Nature of Cambodia

Cambodia has a diverse range of natural habitats that support its wildlife and provide ecosystem services for its people. Some of the most important and impressive natural areas in Cambodia are:

The Tonle Sap Lake

This is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. The Tonle Sap Lake changes dramatically with the seasons, expanding and shrinking depending on the water flow from the Mekong River.

During the wet season, the lake covers an area of about 16,000 square kilometers, while during the dry season it shrinks to about 2,500 square kilometers. The Tonle Sap Lake supports millions of people who depend on its fishery resources and floodplain agriculture. It also hosts a rich diversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and plants.

The Cardamom Mountains

This is one of the largest intact rainforest areas in Southeast Asia, covering about 20% of Cambodia's land area. The Cardamom Mountains are home to many endangered species, such as tigers, elephants, gibbons, hornbills, and pangolins.

The Cardamom Mountains also provide vital watershed functions, regulating the water flow and quality for the Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong Delta. The Cardamom Mountains are threatened by illegal logging, mining, hydropower development, and land conversion.

The Eastern Plains Landscape

This is a mosaic of dry deciduous forests, grasslands, wetlands, and evergreen forests in the eastern part of Cambodia. The Eastern Plains Landscape is one of the last strongholds for large mammals in Southeast Asia, such as banteng, gaur, sambar deer, Eld's deer, and wild water buffalo. It also harbors some of the rarest and most elusive predators, such as tigers, leopards, dholes, and clouded leopards. The Eastern Plains Landscape is facing pressures from infrastructure development, agricultural expansion, hunting, and wildlife trade.

Conservation and Ecotourism in Cambodia

Cambodia faces many challenges in conserving its wildlife and nature, such as poverty, population growth, weak governance, corruption, and lack of awareness. However, there are also many opportunities and initiatives to protect and restore its natural heritage, such as:

The Royal Government of Cambodia has established a network of protected areas that covers about 25% of the country's land area. These protected areas are managed by various government agencies, such as the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Some of the most notable protected areas in Cambodia are Virachey National Park, Preah Vihear Protected Forest, Phnom Kulen National Park, Prek Toal Biosphere Reserve, and Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.

Several international and local organizations are working in partnership with the government and local communities to conserve and manage Cambodia's wildlife and nature. Some of these organizations are Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna and Flora International, BirdLife International, Wildlife Alliance, Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, Cambodian Wildlife Conservation Society, and many others.

These organizations conduct research, monitoring, education, advocacy, law enforcement, habitat restoration, community development, and ecotourism activities to support conservation efforts in Cambodia.

Ecotourism is a growing sector in Cambodia that offers an alternative source of income and livelihood for local people while promoting conservation awareness and appreciation among visitors. Ecotourism can also generate funds for conservation projects and protected area management.

Some of the best ecotourism destinations in Cambodian wildlife are Mondulkiri Elephant Valley Project (where visitors can interact with rescued elephants), Chi Phat Community-Based Ecotourism (where visitors can explore the Cardamom Mountains by trekking or biking), Koh Kong Conservation Corridor (where visitors can enjoy kayaking or rafting along mangrove forests), Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary (where visitors can observe thousands of waterbirds nesting on the Tonle Sap Lake), and Jahoo Gibbon Camp (where visitors can stay in a tented camp and listen to the calls of yellow-cheeked crested gibbons).

How You Can Help

If you are interested in learning more about the wildlife and nature of Cambodia or want to contribute to its conservation efforts, you can:

  • Visit Cambodia's natural attractions responsibly and respectfully. Follow the guidelines and regulations of the protected areas and ecotourism sites. Do not litter or disturb the wildlife or plants. Do not buy or consume any products derived from endangered species. Support local communities by hiring guides or buying souvenirs from them.
  • Donate or volunteer for conservation organizations that work in Cambodia. You can find more information about their projects and activities on their websites or social media platforms. You can also join their campaigns or events to raise awareness or funds for conservation causes.
  • Spread the word about Cambodian wildlife and nature to your friends and family. Share your experiences and photos on social media or blogs. Encourage others to visit or support Cambodia's natural heritage.

Cambodia is a country with a wealth of wildlife and nature that deserves our attention and respect. By appreciating its beauty and diversity we can also help protect it for future generations.

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