June 15, 2015
The Enjoyable Anti-Poaching Patrol
- as seen by -Antony Lynam
Enforcing the forestry law should not be this much fun.
For one thing walking around in a dry deciduous forest in Cambodia’s Northern Plains in March, one is exposed to temperatures sometimes reaching well over a 100 degrees F. Then, if illegal loggers are found, the ensuing chase elevates the body temperature even further. Then, if loggers are caught, it’s a long walk back to the station hauling suspect and chainsaws. But on this particular day, the patrol could not have been better. That’s because there were no illegal people to be found, and more importantly, wildlife was in abundance.
Starting out just after 7 am from the Trapeang Pring substation, one of five ranger posts in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest, the ranger team I was with spooked a flock of seven giant ibis, one of Asia’s most endangered birds (above). These tallish, odd-looking birds spend a good deal of their time feeding in deep mud around trapeangs (water holes), sharing territory with woolly-necked storks, lesser adjutants, and the occasional buffalo from nearby villages. The species numbers fewer than 250, so we accounted for about 3% of the population with our observation.
Further along the sandy track we stopped to watch a pack of ten wild pigs, including young, all scooting through the low grass. Wild pigs help to keep topsoil churned up and aerated, and they are a top choice prey item for leopards and dhole, the main predators.
Roughly a half hour later, we turned a corner near a dry stream to see a huge bull banteng bolting in the opposite direction in a cloud of fine dust. Banteng, a species of wild cattle, are considered endangered due to hunting for meat and trophy horns. Perhaps a few thousand remain in Indochina, most of them scattered across forest reserves in Cambodia. Normally tracks are found around grassy areas, but rarely an animal is seen like this in full flight.
Already half-way through the morning, our patrol was looking good. No signs of poachers, and plenty of wildlife to see.
Canon 5D Mark III