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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - By Publisher Michael Hayes

By Publisher Michael Hayes

T HE most ambitious effort in more than four decades to document the existence of

Cambodia's national animal, the Kouprey, has determined, with a high degree of

certainty, that the world's rarest bovine does in fact exist in small numbers in

remote corners of Mondolkiri province.

More importantly, the Thayer

Expedition has documented categorically the existence of other species in

signifacent numbers including the gaur, banteng, barking deer, wild pig, Asian

wild dog, red headed vulture, whooly-necked stork, red junglefowl and peacock,

all of which are rapidly approaching "endangered species" status throughout

Asia.

While the Kouprey was not actually sighted by the Thayer

expdition, evidence collected from animal tracks and recent sightings indicates

that the Kouprey is alive and extremely endangered with perhaps as few as six to

10 animals surviving precariously in virtually unhabited jungle areas in one of

the Kingdom's most isolated districts.

Based on this new information, the

Royal Government has a unique opportunity to act quickly and definitively to

safeguard an important national symbol, a step that would not only guarantee the

survival of the Kouprey but which in the long run would be of immense benefit to

the nation.

His Majesty The King, the Royal Government, the recalcitrant

Khmer Rouge and all friends of Cambodia must act now to save the Kouprey. To

wait even one minute longer would be sheer folly.

To the point, the

government needs to declare the northeast corner of Mondolkiri Province as a

national reserve or wildlife park and take whatever measures necessary to

protect the animals which still exist there .

The animals in Mondolkiri

are rapidly vanishing from their shrinking enclaves. However, Cambodia, unlike

many other nations in this part of Asia, still retains significant populations

of rare species which stand head and shoulders above what exists eleswhere

regionally.

The most saleable argument, among many, for safeguarding this

wildlife is the long-term potential for engendering revenues as a result of the

worldwide intersest in wildlife tourism, of which the Kingdom is still

well-placed to take advantage. In a nutshell, people all over the world are

willing to spend thousands of dollars to see rare wild animals in their native

habitat.

The opportunity for a bold expression of visionary leadership

is

waiting to be grasped. The Khmer people will only reap the benefits of

such action for centuries to come.

What better reason is there to grab

(gently) the cow by the horns? And, more to the point, which Khmer will go down

in history as the individual who had the forsight to protect for eternity one of

the Kingdom's most treasured national symbols?

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