Gaur caught on camera trap in Virachey National Park. Photo by: HabitatID.
Things appeared to be on the upswing in Cambodia’s vast Virachey National Park in the early 2000s. Conservation groups were surveying the area and the World Bank had committed $5 million in funds. But then the Cambodia government handed out a mining exploration permit covering 90 percent of the park. The World Bank exited, NGOs ran away, rangers lost their jobs, rubber plantations began cutting their way in, and Virachey was abandoned as a so-called “paper park.” Until a rogue NGO called HabitatID showed up.
Using camera traps, this new NGO set out to prove that Virachey National Park with all its problems–illegal logging, poaching, encroachments and government ambivalence—still housed rare and threatened species. The group set out camera traps across the 300,000 hectare park, including in some of the most remote and untouched regions. A new video, released by HabitatID, underscores a number of their findings, including seemingly healthy populations of Asiatic black bear, sun bear, gaur, sambar deer, clouded leopard and dholes among other. The team also got the first record of the Chinese serow in the park. The program has proven that Virachey still matters.
“[Our] goal right now is to inspire other NGOs to come in and sponsor whatever kind of program they can muster,” said Greg McCann, co-founder and field coordinator for the group. “Based on our work, three NGOs have applied for funding to work in [Virachey].”
McCann added that this was the NGOs hope all along, explaining, “we go in and do the initial camera trapping work that others might not have funds or time for, we prove that the under-prioritized park or sanctuary is actually still home to significant wildlife, and then we make the case for them to come in and supply the management plan that is needed so that the habitat can continue to serve as a home for rare wildlife. ”
McCann said he also hoped to meet with Cambodia’s Ministry of the Environment this year to show them the results of the camera trapping program.
As to the video, McCann said he’s been particularly pleased about finally catching the binturong on camera.
“We were delighted and surprised to get the binturong, as that species has proven particularly elusive in over a year of camera trapping there!” he told Mongabay. “Once we got into the higher and better quality forest of the border mountains, we finally found it (on several cameras).”
But regarding the future of Virachey, McCann, said that “fear mixes with hope in my heart on a daily basis. I cannot answer this question in any conclusive way—I think many conservationists today know what I am talking about.”