Cambodia - Gibbons & Jungles
We joined Australian National University PhD candidate Jess Williams (conducting research on the impacts of ecotourism) in the Veun Sai Siem Pang National Park in northern Cambodia. Staying at the Ranger Station in the Park we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the Conservation International researchers and guides and the local people who provided insights into their lives and their interaction with the forest and its many inhabitants. Providing a fascinating background to our time spent with the amazing little family of Northern Yellow-Cheeked Gibbons. An amazing place, an amazing experience and well worthy of a visit when in Cambodia. Also check out our video at: https://youtu.be/FqtjVVPxBOc
24 imagesThe jungle forest of the Veun Sai Siem Pang National Park is home to all manner of leafy, spiky plants and trees all intent on tripping up or grabbing unsuspecting victims. But importantly the jungle also provides food and shelter for a vast array of animal life. Although the habituated gibbon group are (usually) the easiest to find the forest jungle also hosts many other animals including macaque, sun bears, deer, buffalo, fishing cats, leopards, ducs (monkeys), langurs, loris and wild pigs. Birdlife is also abundant and peacocks are often heard early in the mornings.
31 imagesThe Park hosts what is thought to be the largest population of the endangered northern yellow-cheeked gibbon and has one habituated group that is the subject of regular study and tourists visits - Group A. Attempts to habituate a second group have so far largely failed, but continue. Group A comprises an adult female, two adult males and two infants: one male and one of unknown sex. All gibbons start life black with white face markings and when sexual maturity is reached the females turn a golden yellow. Although not a given, most gibbon groups in the Park call or "sing" around sunrise and this provides a means of locating them in the forest. Their incredibly long and powerful arms and hands provide the perfect means to effortlessly swing - at great speed - through the forest canopy. Although occasionally coming down low in trees for food, gibbons never touch the forest floor.
26 imagesSome images of the local people from the nearby villages of Veun Sai (on the river), I-Tub (pronounced E Tube) and Kong Nork. Most continue to live simply as they have done for many years, farming mostly rice and some other crops but also sadly also resorting to illegal logging in the National Park. A very tough issue to try and change and hard to police when the locals are just trying to make a living for their families the only way they see how. Perhaps a more alarming issue is the interest of mining companies in the National Park land, mostly from other countries, including China. Thankfully the Cambodian government has placed a ban on issue of any mining concessions in the Park, which will hopefully withstand approaches from these wealthy companies.
22 imagesThe Ranger Station at the Veun Sai Siem Pang National Park is about a 40 minute ride by motorbike on rough dirt tracks from the riverside village of Veun Sai. The Station houses rangers and researchers from Conservation International year round and regularly hosts students from the Australian National University and overnight tourists. The facilities are of course basic but by jungles standards very comfortable with three main huts on stilts, a kitchen/eating area and a special "tourist dining hut". The station occasionally floods in the wet season (with a small river running adjacent) and provides the launch pad for forays into the jungle - about 40 mins walk to the "calling bench" from where the habituated family group of gibbons are followed.