WWF-Cambodia works in two key protected areas in this landscape, Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary. Even in these areas, animal numbers are critically low, especially of large herbivores and their predators. With its largely intact dry forest habitat, the area forms part of the tiger landscape with the highest potential for recovery in Asia. With increased protection effort, there are already many signs of improvement, particularly of leopard, and prey species such as banteng, deer, and wild pig. This leaves hope that, at some point in the future, wildlife in the EPL can be restored to its former glory.
Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) is a protected area of nearly 400,000 hectares (4,000km2) located in the Eastern Plains Landscape of Mondulkiri province, Cambodia. The area is considered an important representative sample of the Lower Mekong Dry Forest Ecoregion and was first designated Mondulkiri Protected Forest by The Royal Government of Cambodia in July 2002, before being renamed in 2016. It is managed by Cambodia’s Forest Administration, with technical support from WWF.
Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary contains many wildlife species characteristic of the Lower Mekong Dry Forest ecoregion within the Eastern Plains. This protected areas still holds the three wild cattle species banteng, gaur, and wild water buffalo. Deer species include the endangered Eld's deer, and wild pig are abundant, seen in groups of as many as 100 individuals. Cats are well-represented in the area including small numbers of tiger, an increasing number of leopard, relatively many jungle cat, and possibly a few clouded leopard and fishing cat. Other carnivores include Asiatic jackal and dhole, or Asian wild dog, as well as sun bears and several civet species. The forest also contains a rich diversity of primates including black-shanked douc and Germain's silver langur as well as pig-tailed and long-tailed macaque.
The trapeangs (watering holes) in SWS (and throughout the Eastern Plains) provide breeding habitats for threatened water birds including sarus crane, critically endangered giant and white-shouldered ibis as well as lesser and possibly greater adjutant. Three critically endangered vulture species, slender-billed, white-rumped, and red-headed vulture, maintain nesting populations in the protected area and are given periodic supplemental feedings of domestic cattle carcasses through a joint monitoring effort of WWF, WCS and BirdLife International. Other charismatic bird species observed in the area include great and oriental pied hornbills, green peafowl, silver pheasant, and great slaty woodpecker.
The critically endangered Siamese crocodile is present in small numbers in the Srepok River and its tributaries within the Wildlife Sanctuary. Turtles and tortoises are commonly confiscated from poachers collecting them for the wildlife trade, most often the endangered elongated tortoise. Water and Bengal monitors have also been sighted and confiscated from collectors. Snakes that have been observed include king cobra and Burmese python. Large individuals of several fish species are still caught in the Srepok River including rare species like seven-striped barb or giant carp. Freshwater sting raysmay also be present. An Irrawaddy dolphin was last seen in the upper Srepok in 2005.
Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary (PPWS), roughly 225,000ha (2,225km2) in size, is another critically important protected area in the Eastern Plains in which WWF is supporting government conservation efforts. PPWS was established in 1993 by Royal Decree although former King Sihanouk had already designated Phnom Prich a forest reserve in 1962, originally as a refuge for the now extinct Kouprey.
Today, Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary covers 2,225 square kilometres – more than 15% of the total area of Mondulkiri province – and forms part of one of the largest remaining relatively undisturbed landscapes in mainland Southeast Asia. PPWS is notable for its rich habitat diversity, ranging from hilly evergreen forest to open dry dipterocarp woodland and seasonally wet grasslands.
The wildlife sanctuary hosts the core area for the largest Asian elephant herd in eastern Cambodia. Recent camera trapping shows that there is good recruitment with many calves seen in photographs. Wildlife also includes the mega-herbivores banteng and gaur as well as populations of the endangered Eld’s deer. These and other herbivores form the prey base for an unknown number of Indochinese tigerpresent in the sanctuary, and a survey is underway to estimate tiger population size more accurately. Other key carnivores include leopardand clouded leopard, as well as marbled cat, jungle cat, and dhole. Phnom Prich is one of the last global strongholds for the endangered green peafowl, and the elusive white-winged duck has also been spotted inside the protected area.
This wealth of ecosystems is due to the sanctuary’s very diverse elevational structure varying between 80 to 640metres that has created a rich, intricate mosaic of forest habitats: About 50% of Phnom Prich’s forests are dry dipterocarp with an additional 40% semi-evergreen and 10% evergreen forest. These open forest mosaics support globally significant populations of animals characteristic of both dry and dense forest ecosystems, particularly large mammals and waterbirds, many of which have been extirpated from most other parts of Southeast Asia.