Two rare tree species identified in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary

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The Machilus cambodiana and Machilus seimensis species – named after the location where they were found – were discovered by a group of Cambodian and Japanese botanists. WCS Cambodia

Two rare tree species believed to be endangered were discovered in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in the northeastern provinces of Mondulkiri and Kratie, according to an announcement released by the Wildlife Conservation Society in Cambodia (WCS Cambodia) on November 17.

The Machilus cambodiana and Machilus seimensis species – named after the location where they were found – were discovered by a group of Cambodian and Japanese botanists.

The WCS said: “Even though the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) did not include these two new trees on its red list yet, researchers believe they are endangered. Numbers of these two trees are low in dense forests. Researchers found only two of these kinds of trees during their research.”

Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is known to shelter more than 260 species of small plants and trees, 20 of which are endangered globally. There are 53 types of trees in the sanctuary which produce luxury wood or first, second or third-grade timber, according to the Forestry Administration.

Researchers also found new plant and tree species at Phnom Bokor National Park in Kampot province and the Central Cardamom Wildlife Sanctuary.

WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha told The Post that to protect the two rare species, the WCS will encourage its staff to study and monitor them while continuing to perform their duties in the main locations of its development plan.

“It is unknown at this time what they [the WCS staff] will do after they leave their posts. As a first step, we need to protect and preserve these trees [and plants] well so that the next generation can study them,” he said.

Chhang Phourin, deputy director of the Institute of Forest and Wildlife Research and Development (IRD), said he had studied the two rare species with Japanese botanist Tetsukazu Yahara. He told The Post on November 17 that research into Cambodia’s forests began in 2009 and the two rare species were first observed in 2011 and 2015, although they were only recently properly identified after years of analysis.

“Machilus cambodiana and Machilus seimensis are types of medicinal plants. They are similar to the Tep Piro plant and the Mreah Prov Phnom plant,” he said.

Phourin added that Machilus plants have also been found in Phnom Bokor National Park and the Central Cardamom Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia and they exist in Southern Vietnam and Thailand as well.

“If there was no Covid-19, Tetsukazu Yahara would cooperate with us to further research new plants and trees,” he said.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra expressed great enthusiasm and said Cambodia welcomes cooperation in research into plant and tree species, wild animals and biodiversities in wildlife sanctuaries and multiple use areas in the country.