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Wildlife returns to Angkor Archaeological Park

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The Pileated Gibbon, an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Wildlife Alliance

Wildlife returns to Angkor Archaeological Park

Wildlife Alliance last week marked eight years of success in its project to reintroduce wildlife to the Angkor Archaeological Park. The aim is to restore wildlife in an area once abundant with animals.

The project is led by the Apsara National Authority (ANA) – a state body tasked with managing the Park – together with the Forestry Administration and Wildlife Alliance.

In a press release, Wildlife Alliance said the Angkor complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to Cambodia’s natural heritage. At Angkor’s zenith, wildlife was likely abundant as suggested by carvings of primates, deer and wildcats at Bayon temple.

However, poaching and hunting in the 20th century decimated populations and eliminated the Pileated Gibbon, an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

“The project aims to reverse this loss by reintroducing wildlife within the Angkor landscape,” said Wildlife Alliance.

It all started in 2013 with the release of a pair of Pileated Gibbons. Since then, around 40 animals have been released, including threatened species.

Sustenance is not the only thing that makes Angkor an ideal home for wildlife, said Nick Marx, Wildlife Alliance’s director of wildlife rescue and care.

“The forests surrounding Angkor are a perfect habitat, and offer a much-needed safe haven for persecuted species,” he said in the press release.

All animals released within the Angkor landscape have a second chance at life in the wild. They were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade or born in captivity to rescued parents, the press release said. After rehabilitation at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Takeo province, just outside the capital, most rescued animals are released into a well-protected habitat.

Last year marked another milestone for the project, with the release of the first wildcats and bird species. A pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills now fly through Angkor’s forests with more hornbill releases planned, it said.

In December last year, a pair of leopard cats was released. The cats have not returned for supplementary food since – a good indication that their survival instincts are serving them well. Meanwhile, a fourth pair of gibbons was transferred to an acclimatisation enclosure to get used to their new forest home before their release, the press release noted.

ANA spokesman Long Kosal told The Post on May 2 that good results have been produced by the wildlife release project, adding that it has contributed to promoting wildlife species in the Park.

“We will continue this cooperation based on what is thought to be possible moving forward. We have to work together to check what other species could be released in the historical site.

"What we are doing now is preparing to release more Pileated Gibbons,” Kosal said.

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