Cambodia Feature

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Cambodia's Endangered Species

In an ironic contrast to the Khmer Rouge atrocities, at least some of Cambodia's wildlands and wildlife populations emerged from that period intact, and therefore the country has a far different scenario than that faced by its neighbors, where the rarest of species were expunged years ago.

The Prek Toal Biosphere Reserve is Southeast Asia's most important waterbird nesting site, home to several endangered species. Near Sre Ambel, in what was a Khmer Rouge hotbed, conservationists are working to save the Cambodian royal turtle, which was thought extinct until early 2000s. In Kratie, some of the world's last Irrawaddy dolphins swim the Mekong in another area long held by the Khmer Rouge; and in Mondulkiri, conservationists report an increase in wildlife species in recent years.

The more tourists who express interest in Cambodia's natural environment, the better the outlook for these species and others. The jungles remain threatened by illegal logging (just visit Stung Treng and Ratanakkiri), and poaching is common. But if those in charge begin to see serious tourist dollars connected to conservation, there may be hope yet.

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