T HE remote northeastern jungles of Cambodia's Mondolkiri province is home to one
of the largest populations of Asia's rarest and most threatened wildlife, a
two-week 150 km jungle field survey completed this month has
The Cambodian Kouprey Research Project, a non-profit
all-volunteer organization launched to document the existence of one of the
world's rarest animals, has concluded that the Kouprey still lives in the
isolated forests of the country's northeast.
There has been no documented
sighting since 1967 of the bovine, declared Cambodia's national animal by His
Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk in 1963. It was only documented as a species in
1935, and has been the subject of a series of international efforts to save it
from extinction in recent decades.
The field study, completed in early
April, culminated more than a year of efforts with the full support of the Royal
Government and Mondolkiri provincial authorities.
First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has taken a keen interest in
the project and loaned his personal plane to ferry equipment and expedition team
members from Phnom Penh to Sen Monoram, Mondolkiri's provincial capital.
Corporate support was also received in the form of a grant from the British
company Enterprise Oil.
While no sighting of the rare forest ox was
achieved, other data collected suggested that less than a dozen still exist in a
small 25 square kilometer region of Mondolkiri.
The study also concluded
that a large number of other endangered animals also exist in the area. These
include one of the largest populations of Asian elephants and Sumatran tigers in
Asia, as well as a number of other birds, bovines, and reptiles.
surveyed by the expedition is devoid of any permanent human settlements,
although widespread evidence was found indicating that hunters pass through the
region regularly and are posing a major threat to the survival of the wildlife
present. Bones of poached elephants, wild cattle, forest pigs and other species
were identified by the team.
The Cambodian Kouprey Research Project is
the brainchild of American journalist Nate Thayer. Plans are underway for a
second expedition to the region in May.