The early results of our camera-trap survey of the Veal Thom Grasslands and Upper Gan Yu River areas of Cambodia’s VNP are in. 11 cameras were deployed, and in under 3 months of filming we recorded 18 species of mammalas well as one large ground bird (Siamese Fireback). Some of the highlights of our mammal captures include: Clouded leopard (Neofelisnebulosa), Asiatic Black Bear (Ursusthibetanus), Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctosmalayanus), Gaur (Bosgaurus), Leopard cat (Prionailurusbengalensis), Fishing cat (Prionailurusviverrinus), Chinese Serow (Capricornismilneedwardsii), and Yellow-throated Marten (Martesflavigula). While in the field we also encountered: elephant footprints, dhole tracks, we heard gibbons singing every morning, observed several species of hornbill, and found Chinese Water Dragon and Reticulated pythons. The fact that our cameras recorded so many mammals in such a short period of time is positive proof of the resiliency of wildlife in Virachey National Park. Our Chinese Serowimage may be the first official record for Northeast Cambodia, and Asiatic Black Bears are rare in Cambodia, so our results show that we are working in a highly productive area of great biodiversity.
During this expedition local guides told us that populations of Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)can still be found in the most remote mountains along the Cambodia-Laos border. This is significant because the Javan rhino is thought to be extinct in Mainland Southeast Asia today with the last animal poached for its horn in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park (not too far from Virachey) in 2011. We plan to investigate these claims by deploying more cameras in January 2015. Tigers, elephants and leopards will also be special targets for future camera-trap placements.
Wedged between Laos and Vietnam, Cambodia’s Virachey National Park is a vital link in a huge but rapidly shrinking wilderness area in Mainland Southeast Asia.
According to villagers, tigers, elephants and possibly even rhinoceros make their homes in Virachey, however their existence is not verified and no conservation group or NGO is currently protecting them. In 2008, the World Bank abandoned their conservation and ecotourism programs at Virachey, and since that time the park has received no protection whatsoever. Sections along the Vietnamese border have been sold off to rubber developers, and illegal loggers and poachers penetrate the park with impunity. Upwards of 90% of Virachey has been made available for mining exploration, however according to unofficial reports, there are simply not enough valuable mineral deposits to justify extraction by the company that holds the exploration license.
A temporary moratorium on land concessions is now in place at Virachey, offering a last hope for discovery and conservation in a place where scientific work has never been done. If HabitatID can capture images of this wildlife, it will provide positive proof that the park retains biodiversity that can be preserved, and justify limiting concessions to land already granted. If our cameras can capture the image of tiger, or snap a photo of a rhino, we can change the destiny of the endangered species that may still call Virachey home.
HabitatID plans to place 20 motion-triggered camera traps deep inside Virachey on Haling-Halang Mountain in January 2014, and have a local team extract them 2 months later, before the onset of the rainy season.
Virechay National Park comprises 3,325 square kilometers of tropical forests and grasslands spanning Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces in the country’s northeast. It is bordered by an equally-large wilderness to the north on the Laos side of the border called Nam Kohng Provincial Protected Area (NKPPA), a 55,000 hectare jungle in Ratanakiri called the Vuen Sai-Siem Pang Protected Forest. To the east, it connects to Chu Mom Ray National Park in Vietnam.