The first round of camera-trap images have come in from the Haling-Halang massif that straddles the Cambodia-Lao border in Virachey National Park (VNP), and they did not disappoint. So far our cameras have turned up: Black bear (it seems VNP is probably a regional stronghold for the Asiatic black bear), Sun bear, families of gaur, troops of Stump-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaque, clouded leopard, golden cat, marbled cat, leopard cat, dhole (seems VNP could be a global stronghold for this canid), Large-tailed Indian civet, serow, muntjac, and a new mammal to our species list: the enigmatic binturong.
Several of our cameras are set to video, but the Park staff wisely prefer to keep the videos off any public YouTube channel for fear of inspiring poachers. Today’s realities in regards to poaching require such measures.
We found abundant signs of elephant back in January during our expedition, but the giants had not yet made an appearance at the time of this last camera trap check. Locals say they should come back around the the Haling-Halang area during the rainy season, which is well underway now in Cambodia. The forest surrounding the base of this mountain, which is sacred to the Brao and Kavet highlanders of Ratanakiri province, is thick primeval rainforest and the most bewitching I have ever seen in all my travels in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Perhaps most surprising of all was the appearance of a lone armed poacher walking along the Haling-Halang ridgeline in the night. He was days away from any Cambodia or Laos settlement, and his presence on the mountain is an indication of the determination and the length to which wildlife criminal like himself will go to for a good payday. The fact that he was there could also be an indication that there are still many animals to be found in the area.
We’ll end on a happier note with this photograph of a family of four gaur enjoying a walk in a muddy wallow. Hopefully animals such as these magnificent bovine below have learned how to avoid the planet’s most terrifying predator-man!
Stay tuned for news about our summer fundraising party in Chicago in August and of course for another round of camera-trap checks!