Diminishing populations of hoofed animals in Southeast Asia have hit Cambodia hard, with numbers of one of the Kingdom’s indigenous species dropping by 90 per cent.
A study released today by the conservation group WWF calls for governments in Southeast Asia to boost efforts to protect ungulates – animals with hooves – or risk extinction of the animals, which are key food sources for endangered predators.
“The status of deer and cattle species is one indicator of the health, diversity and resilience of the entire Greater Mekong region’s natural environment,” said Thomas Gray, manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Programme, in a WWF statement about the study.
Among animals of concern in the study is the banteng, an endangered species similar to domestic cattle that can weigh up to 800 kilograms and primarily resides in Cambodia.
“Across Asia, wild cattle and large deer comprise the majority of the prey selected by tigers,” Gray said.
There are only between 2,700 and 5,700 banteng living in Cambodia’s eastern plains, out of a global population of 5,900 to 11,000, according to the latest WWF figures from 2011.
The current banteng census shows an 80 per cent drop in the world’s banteng population and a 90 per cent reduction in Cambodia’s since the 1960s.
Illegal poaching of banteng greatly contributes to their dwindling numbers, the study says, but large-scale land concessions granted by the Cambodian government in protected areas add to the problem.
“While human pressures … are fast eroding populations of these extraordinary species, there is still time to save them if governments put biodiversity, and its protection, at the heart of decision-making,” Gray said.