Cambodia houses a diverse array of wildlife. The country registers 212 species of mammals, 536 species of birds, 176 reptilians, 850 freshwater fishes, and 435 species of marine fish. Like wildlife in most other parts of the world, Cambodia’s wild species face significant threats from human activities. Here we discuss the threatened and iconic reptiles and fishes of Cambodia and the reasons that put the survival of these species in danger.
5. Mekong Giant Catfish -
The Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) is an indicator of the ecological integrity of the Mekong River and is one of the flagship species in the region. The giant catfish is one of the world’s biggest freshwater fish and is endemic to the Mekong Basin. Since the 1970’s, the population of the fish has been drastically decreasing due to reasons that are not yet fully understood. Overfishing and habitat destruction could be the two biggest reasons behind this rapid decline of the Mekong giant catfish population. Dam constructions over the river in the future continue to threaten populations of this species.
4. Giant Freshwater Stingray -
The giant freshwater stingray (Himantura chaophraya) is like the Mekong giant catfish, one of the world’s biggest and heaviest freshwater fish species. In Cambodia, the populations of this fish inhabit the waters of the Mekong River. Not much is known about the status of this fish in Cambodia, although the fish is classified as endangered in Thailand. Since the fish is a benthic feeder, higher rates of siltation due to human activities could affect the giant freshwater stingray populations adversely. Also, the construction of dams threatens to isolate reproductive populations of this fish.
3. Cantor's Giant Softshell Turtle -
The Cantor’s giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) is a broad-headed turtle with eyes set close to the snout’s tip giving it a distinctive frog-like appearance. Significant populations of this turtle are housed in swamps, rivers, mudflats, and estuaries of Cambodia. The turtles are threatened due to poaching for meat and are also affected by habitat destruction.
2. Elongated Tortoise -
The elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) is a heavily exploited species of tortoise that is frequently confiscated in Cambodia’s Eastern Plains Landscape. These animals inhabit the forests in Southeast and South Asia and are easily distinguished easily by their elongated shells. Populations of the elongated tortoise have been observed in the Cardamom Mountains and the southwestern and eastern Mekong Plains of Cambodia. Besides the elongated tortoise, other threatened turtle species like the yellow-headed temple turtle (Heosemys annandalii) and four-toed terrapin (Batagur baska) are also found in Cambodia.
1. Siamese crocodile -
The Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) is one of the world’s most threatened reptiles. The last remaining habitats of these reptiles can be traced to the wetlands of Cambodia and the Mekong River basin. However, these areas are also not free of threats like habitat fragmentation, hunting, and human disturbance. Only about 100 to 300 wild adult Siamese crocodiles are estimated to remain in Cambodia.