A new primate census conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society shows Cambodia contains the world’s largest populations of two endangered primate species.
The tally, announced late last week, comes less than a month after primates in Cambodia were designated as more at risk than any other place on the globe in a World Conservation Union (IUCN) report.
The IUCN information ranked Cambodia as first in the world—followed by Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos and China—for the percentage of endangered primate species per country. Nine out of 10 species of primates in Cambodia are currently flagged as “threatened” because of deforestation, illegal wildlife trade and hunting.
The new WCS census estimates there are 42,000 black-shanked douc langurs—a type of monkey—and 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons—an ape species—living in the jungles of the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, which is in Mondulkiri and Kratie provinces.
“It shows that this Cambodia government is doing its part to try and protect the largest species of monkeys,” said Edward Pollard, a WCS technical adviser who is based in Mondulkiri province. “Yes, still they are endangered species, but this at least shows the Cambodian government is trying to stop that trend.”
Past surveys weren’t as extensive, so couldn’t definitively assess the number of primates, he added.
The WCS survey was conducted over six months by a 15-person team with support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Pollard said Sunday. The surveyors tallied the “stronghold” of monkeys by walking jungle paths morning and evening, relying on tinned fish for food.
These primate species are flourishing in the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area because of successful law enforcement in the area, conservation education, the end to logging and villager involvement in conservation efforts, Pollard said.
Poaching and logging were once common in the area until the Ministry of Agriculture declared the region a protected area in order to preserve the site.
“We [at WCS] thought, let’s put in the extra effort to do the most extensive count ever so then the Forestry Administration can turn around and highlight the area and flag the good work they have been doing to protect the area and show that conservation in Cambodia does work when the local community and the local government works together—here is the evidence,” Pollard said of the report.
Yet, there is still work to be done, according to Tom Clements, lead author of the WCS report.
“Despite this good news in Cambodia, the area still remains at risk from conversion to agro-industrial plantations for crops, including biofuels, and commercial mining,” he said.
Government officials with the Wildlife Protection Office in the Ministry of Agriculture, which manages the Seima site, could not be reached for comment Sunday.