Although in many countries of the Southeast Asian region, construction, illegal logging and poaching continue to cause persistent problems in the drive to preserve wildlife habitat, in Cambodia these problems are extremely serious and even many ‘protected’ areas can shockingly often show signs of considerable scarring.

This situation is further compounded by the government, which despite its ecological pledges, continues to offer dubious land concessions within their boundaries, an example of which was the sale of an area Botum Sakor National Park, home to many of Cambodia’s most endangered species, to Chinese Developers, who have transformed the area into a city-sized gambling resort. Together with other concessions and compounded by criminal activities, this former jewel is almost entirely ruined.

One of the most untouched wilderness areas remaining in Cambodia is the evergreen rainforest of the Cardamom Mountains National Park, with Sun Bears, Tigers, Clouded Leopards, Pileated Gibbons and Pangolins among the more illustrious inhabitants to wander its forests, whilst overhead some 450 species of bird can be found. Fishing Cats can be found along the banks of Cardamom rivers, within which Irrawaddy and humpback dolphins can be found swimming along with Siamese Crocodiles.

An innovative project at Chi Pat, in the southern Cardamoms has harnessed the profound knowledge of former poachers into first class wildlife guides and transformed the local economy into a profoundly successful ecotourism destination.

Another area of wilderness, in the far northeast and straddling the borders of Laos and Vietnam, Virachey National Park is a variegated terrain of mountain, upland savannah and dense forest, and is likewise home to some rare wildlife, but the rarest species are seldom seen on most of the trails in the area, some of which can last up to 8 days.

In Eastern Cambodia, the Phnom Prich and Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuaries offer a refuge to Cambodia’s struggling wildlife, where you can do some wildlife-spotting elephant treks. The Gibbon Project at Ban Lung offers a trekking experience to encounter a recently discovered yellow-cheeked Gibbon colony.   

The easiest place to view Cambodia’s endangered species is by visiting one of Cambodia’s rescue centres. Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary importantly gives a home to animals rescued from poachers and abusive owners and, wherever possible, returned to the wild. Occupying a space between zoo and safari park, Tigers, Sun Bears, Gibbons, Macaques, Elephants, Crocodiles and deer can be seen, along with a large aviary.

Likewise, the Observation Area of the Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary at Angkor provides an opportunity to see many of these iconic species. Although no substitute for viewing these creatures in the wild, the enclosures are at least sensitively designed to replicate the natural habitats.