Gentle groans of cattle gradually woke me from my slumber. It had been another hot, humid night spent shuffling to sleep on wooden slats – my three research assistants had adopted hammocks, but I simply couldn’t stand being surrounded by polyester in 35°C. Even at 4am, it was just too hot. Above me, the deep fiery hue of dawn spanned the sky as far as the eye could see. Swifts swept in among the palms, clearing the skies in a feeding frenzy.
I’d been in Cambodia six weeks, and this was one of the last villages left to survey. I was researching the impact of local communities’ livelihoods on a critically endangered bustard species; theBengal florican(Houbaropsis bengalensis). Fewer than 1,500 florican remain globally, over 60% of which seasonally reside in the grasslands of Kampong Thom province, central Cambodia.