Fallout from deforestation

In a 2010 report to the international Convention on Biological Diversity, Cambodia’s Ministry of the Environment presented a portrait of national biodiversity to make any taxonomist drool: 123 mammal species, 88 reptile species, 545 bird species, and more than 2,000 species of vascular plants. Further study has the potential to significantly increase these numbers.  

But as the impressive extent of Cambodian biodiversity slowly comes to light, it is also coming under increasing threat.   

Over the past decade, land concessions and luxury timber harvesting have reduced primary forest cover by 13,000 hectares, or 3.42 percent each year in Cambodia, according to a report released early this month by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Tropical Timber Organisation. The same report ranks the Kingdom third in the world for primary forest loss.
Wildlife experts say many of Cambodia’s most iconic species have seen their habitats dwindle under an onslaught of new roads, mines, rubber plantations, and hydroelectric dams.

Some, like Cambodia’s national animal the Kouprey, may have already succumbed.  According to a 2008 designation by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the elusive forest ox is critically endangered and likely extinct, with no confirmed sightings for nearly three decades.

Other species may still have a fighting chance. The Post profiles three such species – the Asian elephant, the Siamese crocodile, and the Malayan sun bear – emblematic of the threats posed by deforestation and the lingering potential for redress.

As Cambodia attempts to strike a delicate equilibrium between economic development and ecological stability, the fate of these three species may hang in the balance.

Source: Phnom Penh Post

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