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:
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!
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.
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.
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!