Two gaur – a mother and her calf – were spotted with a herd of domestic cattle grazing in the forest in Preah Vihear province, giving new hope to conservationists concerned about the protection of Cambodia's biodiversity.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra, citing park rangers, told The Post that the mother and her calf returned to the forest on the afternoon of July 10 after grazing with the cows.
"The park rangers continued to monitor the situation to make sure that they returned to the forest safely without running into traps or hunters," he said.
Pheaktra noted that there is no clear data on how many gaur there are in the Kingdom, but according to images obtained from camera traps and the reports of park rangers who patrol in the protected areas, guar – known by its scientific name (Bos gaurus) and listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List – are definitely present in Cambodia.
He said that over the years, herds of gaur, including many calves and juveniles, have been recorded by camera traps. This, he said, indicates that gaur are still actively reproducing and demonstrates the success of Cambodia's efforts in maintaining one of the world's vulnerable species.
"The continued sighting of gaur, including calves, in Cambodia gives new hope for conservationists and for global biodiversity," he said.
Pheaktra said that in order to ensure the sustainability of the presence of gaur – as well as other rare species in the Kingdom – the ministry will continue to strengthen law enforcement on the protection and management of all species to contribute to wildlife biodiversity as well as strive to provide better protection for wildlife habitats and better conservation for wildlife water and food sources.
He added that the ministry has also raised awareness of the law and the importance of conserving forests and wildlife to maintain biodiversity, especially of the world's endangered species so that they continue to live and reproduce.
"The ministry will continue to cooperate with partner organisations that have cooperated in the protection and conservation of natural resources in Cambodia," he said.
The gaur population globally is believed to have decreased by about 90 per cent since the middle of the 20th century with no end in sight to their decline in number.
According to some studies, gaur in Cambodia decreased by over 50 per cent in the decades between 1960 and 1990 and perhaps further since then.
The total number of gaur in the world is estimated to be between 15,000 and 35,000. Wild gaur are currently present in Cambodia, Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam, but it has become extinct in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, according to experts.
Pheaktra called on people to participate in the protection and conservation of wildlife, especially rare and endangered animals, by stop eating bush meat or believing the myths about it bringing good health.
"At the same time, the authorities will enforce the law against all perpetrators who slaughter wild animals, without exception," he emphasised.