Save Virachey National Park

Camera trap images come in from the Haunted Headwaters of Haling-Halang

Save Virachey National Park l

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.

Video still of a binturong climbing over a log

Video still of a binturong climbing over a log

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.

Camera-trap photograph of a binturong on an evening patrol

Camera-trap photograph of a binturong on an evening patrol

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.

A stump-tailed macaque enjoys a piece of fruit

A stump-tailed macaque enjoys a piece of fruit

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.

VNP staff believe that this man is Vietnamese and that he entered from Laos

VNP staff believe that this man is Vietnamese and that he entered from Laos

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!

Four gaur at a mud wallow in VNP

Four gaur at a mud wallow in VNP

Stay tuned for news about our summer fundraising party in Chicago in August and of course for another round of camera-trap checks!

First round of Yak Yeuk Grasslands Camera Trap Footage In!

Save Virachey National Park l

Brothers and Habitat ID collaborators Keith and Dan Pawlowski set up seven camera traps in the Yak Yeuk Grasslands area of Virachey National Park, Cambodia in January 2015. Camera traps had been deployed to the area about eight years ago by a different NGO, but they were not set up where Keith and Dan put them this time. We had scoped out a cluster of high peaks right on the Lao border (they said they were getting Lao phone reception up there) from photos I had taken when I trekked to Yak Yeuk with birder Howie Nielsen back in 2013 (link to Howie’s 2013 trip report here). To the best of the VNP staff’s knowledge, no one from VNP or any NGO had ever been up in those border mountains. I was delighted when I saw Keith in Phnom Penh back in January and he informed me that they had indeed got up into those mountains…and set up camera traps at a high elevation elephant watering hole! The elephants will probably return during the rainy season, but in the meantime, here is a sample of some of the footage that was retrieved when VNP ranger Leam Sou and two Kavet highlanders checked on the cameras:

A dhole pauses on a forest trail

A dhole pauses on a forest trail

Keith and Dan said they spotted a pack of ten dhole out in the open in Yak Yeuk, and lo and behold, the cameras turned up a pack of ten dhole!

Pack of dhole!

A pack of dhole!

I’ve read that dhole are critically endangered, even in worse shape than the tiger with an estimated population of just 2,500 individuals. Either these estimations are wrong…or Virachey is a global stronghold for this canid, for dhole appeared on three out of seven of the Yak Yeuk cameras, and across the park in the Veal Thom Grasslands-Gan Yu River Valley area, dhole have appeared on seven out of eleven of our cameras. I’ve also been told that Virachey is a global stronghold for gibbons, and while we have no camera trap footage of them (they rarely come down to the forest floor) Keith’s team -as well as mine- heard them singing every morning. You can listen to Dr. Andreas Neunert’s exquisite recording of several Northern buff-cheeked gibbons singing here.

Large Indian Civet

Large Indian Civet

Other mammals recorded include: Large Indian Civet (see photo above), clouded leopard, the rare and mysterious marbled cat, leopard cat, sun bear, black bear, yellow-throated marten, pig-tailed macaque, stump-tailed macaque, serow, sambar deer, muntjac, chevrotain (mouse deer), Malayan porcupine, gaur, wild pig, tree shrew, Blue whistling-thrush, Siamese fireback, Red jungle fowl, and more.

A rare and beautiful marbled cat

A rare and beautiful marbled cat

Gaur

Gaur

Habitat ID has also been in the media recently. I wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Cambodia Daily, which you can find here, and Luke Hunt at the Diplomat just published an article about Virachey and our work there, and I also blogged about our adventurous trek to Haling Halang here.  And if you’d like to see Howie’s new bird list from our recent trek to Haling-Halang, you can check it out here. Sou and a team will be trekking to Haling-Halang to change memory cards in our 12 camera traps that are currently working in that area. Check back in with us soon to learn about what they uncover!

-Greg

 

 

8th Month Report on Virachey Camera-Trapping Project

Save Virachey National Park l

Our trusted group of Virachey National Park (VNP) rangers recently returned from a Habitat ID-sponsored camera-trap check, and the results are exciting. We were very much looking forward to seeing what kind of wildlife movements occurred during the rainy season, which was especially wet this year. In fact, the rangers attempted to check the cameras in late July but had to turn back due to high, fast-moving rivers. However, they were able to to reach all of the cameras in early October.

A sun bear looks at the camera while scratching its back on a tree.

A sun bear looks at the camera while scratching its back.

Our cameras turned up: a pack of endangered dholes (on three separate cameras), clouded leopards on 3 different cameras, leopard cat, sun bear, large Indian civet, common palm civet, mouse deer, red muntjac, pig-tailed macaques, stump-tailed macaques (this was a very interesting find, which we got on two different cameras, because while villagers have stated they live on the park they had yet to be confirmed by NGOs), gaur (including a photo of a mother and golden calf), Sambar deer, serow, hog badger, Malayan porcupine, wild pig, monitor lizard, owl (species still not known), red jungle fowl, Siamese fireback, lesser adjutant, black bird, and a small mammal we have not yet been able to identify.

An adult gaur and its calf in a remote section of VNP

An adult gaur and its calf in a remote section of VNP

Altogether our cameras recorded 17 species of mammal, four birds, and one reptile. We will also be launching two expeditions in January 2015 to install cameras in two highly remote locations inside VNP. In the meantime, have a look at more photos below:

A clouded leopard patrols a forested area near an upland savanna inside VNP

A clouded leopard patrols a forested area near an upland savanna inside VNP

The elusive stump-tailed macaque is now, thanks to our cams, confirmed in VNP

The elusive stump-tailed macaque is now, thanks to our cams, confirmed in VNP

A pack of dholes (Asiatic wild dogs) takes a rest

A pack of dholes (Asiatic wild dogs) takes a rest

Large Indian civet

Large Indian civet

Pig-tailed macaques frolic in the forest

Pig-tailed macaques frolic in the forest

A clouded leopard in another area of VNP

A clouded leopard in another area of VNP

Leopard cat

Leopard cat

A large wild pig cools off in a puddle

A large wild pig cools off in a puddle

Serow

Serow

Mouse deer, also known as the Chevrotain

Mouse deer, also known as the Chevrotain

A dhole in the Veal Thom Grasslands

A dhole in the Veal Thom Grasslands

In addition to our Virachey project, we also have a project going with L. Bruce Kekule down in southern Thailand. You can have a look at the first camera trap image we got back of a gorgeous clouded leopard here. Habitat ID field officer Greg McCann wrote a commentary for Mongabay.com about the Thailand project back in August, and you can find that article here.

Finally, we have an Indiegogo campaign going called Boats4Virachey in which we are trying to help the VNP staff acquire four boats with which they can patrol the Sesan River for illegal loggers and poachers transporting their good on the river. VNP currently has no boats for river patrols, and the Sesan snakes its way for nearly 100 kilometers through and around the perimeter of VNP. Your help is greatly appreciated!