Recent expedition to Kampot sites reports rare species presence

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Some of the species found during the expedition in Kampot by a team of scientists. SUPPLIED

The Kampot provincial environment department and a team of researchers from the Ministry of Environment have discovered a remarkable degree of biodiversity – include the presence of some of the most vulnerable, threatened and endangered species – following a recent scientific expedition to two protected sites: Luong Cave and Phnom Totong-Phnom Touch Natural Heritage Area.

The ministry said the biodiversity present there includes 12 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles and eight species amphibians, of which three are critically endangered , two near extinction, and another two in the vulnerable group.

Back on January 22, the government issued separate sub-decrees establishing the two natural heritage sites in the eastern portion of Kampot, in a bid to protect their ecosystems, the beauty of their natural landscapes and other natural values.

The decrees designated 83.44ha across Dang Tong and Banteay Meas districts as “Phnom Totong-Phnom Touch Natural Heritage Area” and 25ha in Banteay Meas district’ Touk Meas Khang Lech commune as “Phnom Preah Kuhear Luong”, or “Luong Cave”.

The ministry said the research team also found many other species that are being scientifically identified, but some are thought to possibly be newly discovered species. They have collected samples for preservation and study as well.

It noted that the sites are also home to tens of thousands of insect-eating bats, which could produce bat guano that farmers could use as a natural fertiliser, with an estimated cost for the project set at $100,000 per year to operate.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post that the discovery of rare and even new species is to be expected in the course of scientific expeditions due to the incredible amount of biodiversity present in the Kingdom.

“It is not uncommon for Cambodia to serially find rare species, because it is widely recognised as a country rich in biodiversity with over 5,000 species already recorded,” he said.

“We need to study all of these species of plants and animals further in order to clearly identify for the next generation which species are extinct and which are still living so they can judge the health of Cambodia’s biodiversity accurately and continue to protect and conserve it for the next generation,” he added.

According to Pheaktra, the biodiversity index of Cambodia has a score of 7.5, but the true score may actually be higher depending on the research relied upon and what could turn out to be a large number of undocumented species.

He said Cambodia is known to have 123 species of mammals, 545 bird species, 88 reptile species, 2,308 vascular plant species, 874 fish species, 24 hard coral species, 14 soft coral species, 10 seagrass species and 63 amphibian species.