The hog badger persists in the Kingdom although in unknown numbers, despite continuing illegal poaching for their lard – used in traditional medicines largely based in superstition – as well as their meat and bones, affirmed Ministry of Environment spokesperson Neth Pheaktra.

Hog badgers comprise three mustelid species of the genus Arctonyx. The greater hog badger (Arctonyx collaris), the species found in Cambodia, is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as “vulnerable”.

Pheaktra on February 5 said the hog badgers live in natural protected areas in the northern, northeastern and southwestern parts of the country, but noted that no comprehensive national or global population data is available.

Citing population reports, he said hog badgers – also including the northern hog badger (Arctonyx albogularis) and Sumatran hog badger (Arctonyx hoevenii) – are distributed across Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Indonesia’s Sumatra island.

“We all need to do our share and stop eating bushmeat, using wildlife products, and poaching – all of these can pose risks to human health. Instead, we must protect and preserve Cambodia’s natural resources for our future and that of our descendants,” Pheaktra said.

He insisted that a considerable number of hog badgers remain in the Cambodian wild, and that the same is true for other notable species with heightened risk of local extinction, such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), gaur (Bos gaurus), banteng (Bos javanicus), giant muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis), leopard (Panthera pardus) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa).

Time and again confirmed by motion-detection based camera traps, their continued presence is thanks to a peaceful atmosphere that provides the Kingdom ample opportunity to draw up plans to safeguard and conserve natural resources, he added.

Of the species mentioned by Pheaktra, the gaur, leopard and clouded leopard are considered “vulnerable” by the IUCN; the Asian elephant and banteng are in the more serious “endangered” category; while the giant muntjac has the more dire “critically endangered” status.

On the other hand, the northern and Sumatran hog badgers are classified as species of “least concern”, indicating that they are not significantly threatened.

The greater hog badger’s head-plus-body length ranges from 65-104cm, with tails 12-17cm and hind legs 11.5-13.4cm, and adults typically weigh between seven and 14kg, the ministry previously reported, citing expert studies.

The mustelid’s body fur changes colour with the seasons and is typically dark grey or black with light yellow in some places. The fur on its upper back also tends to be darker than that on its lower back. It also has a white chest, cheeks and ear tips, as well as a white stripe extending from the nose to at least the tip of its head.

It is a nocturnal, ground-dwelling mammal that prefers tunnels and rocky crevices, and is characterised by relatively large feet with lengthy, powerful, curved, white nails and a long snout somewhat reminiscent of a pig’s.

With a relatively weak sense of sight and hearing, the animals use their snouts much more widely to experience the world, the ministry said, adding that a normal litter size is two or three cubs.

Greater hog badgers emerge at dusk to forage for tubers, bulbs, corms, rhizomes, roots and other plants, as well as earthworms, insects and other small animals, the ministry added.