As we expect, although the wet season started a month or two earlier, July heralds the onset of the rains in earnest. Torrential downpours have meant that the small bridges we constructed over the myriad of small streams that cross the path to out Wildlife Release Station (WRS) near the forest village of Chi Phat in Koh Kong province were almost impassable at times and the water has brought new life to the forest. The weather does not remotely resemble the depressing cold drizzle of an English winter and we do not let it interfere with our work too much.
My friend and colleague, Roth Bunthoeun, continues to manage our project to return rescued animals into this patch of forest, which had become so depleted of wildlife due to the excessive hunting that used to go on before our arrival. Vang, Souern and Oun are still a jack‐of‐ all‐trades in their job description, caring for our animals, radio tracking our releases, cooking and caring for our guests…and anything else that comes their way. Without the education of a Western conservationist, their skill‐set is unmatched. Although their English is limited they communicate with the guests who visit WRS to experience the forest. 27 visitors including children came to stay during the past three months and the friendly polite nature of our staff is one aspect that makes this project so popular with tourists.
We released a total of three pangolins, during the past three months. These were “hard released” meaning they did not receive a period of acclimatization, nor supplementary food following release. We have found that pangolins do not require this and survive in a new environment without the need of support.
We separated the two pangolins we are keeping at WRS. The female has lost two legs to snares and is therefore unreleasable. The male was being over attentive in his amorous advances and was damaging the female. She has already given birth to three babies, which we have released and we will put the two adults together again once she has recovered.
Sun bears Tela and Sopheap are fine and are enjoying the wet weather and the abundance of forest food that it brings. Termites and frogs are now plentiful in their forest enclosure, which is finally looking a little the worse for wear under the bears’ attentions. We changed their diet because Sopheap was becoming worryingly fat. They no longer receive rice porridge twice per day, but a mixture of vegetables, dry dog food and pulses, which we soak. Our female sun bear is at last losing a little weight, but she still has a long way to go.
The wild troupes of macaques we released have been less apparent lately. They are still around, but seem to be spending less time at WRS. We occasionally see one or two of the slow lorises we have released and we know our old friends the binturongs are still around. The female muntjac we released is now consorting with a wild male and the pair of mynah birds and single red breasted parakeet, with a fixation for humans, are always around camp and are still enjoying our company.
The three sambar deer we are acclimatizing are well. The third female, which was nervous, is now easy around people. The young stag, which we rescued from dogs as a fawn in the Phnom Tamao forest, now wears a handsome rack of antlers. We must hope he does not use them to our disadvantage once we release him.
On August 4th the male Oriental pied hornbill we were preparing for release with a female was found dead in his enclosure. There were small wounds on his body and feathers had been disarranged. He had not been sick and must have been attacked, although we are uncertain how this could have happened. We released the female immediately, and she is now flying freely around camp, along with our other two hornbills we previously released. The male is still aggressive with guests when they visit. This is inconvenient, but not serious. He defers to a water gun we purchased for his benefit and visitors are asked to wear a hat when they walk around camp. Not the end of the world…
Bunthoeun is capturing different species of wild animals on the camera traps he sets around WRS. We are seeing photos of sun bear, pig‐tailed macaque, dhole and clouded leopard to add to the more common species such as porcupine, leopard cat, civet, wild pig, mouse deer, sambar and muntjac we regularly photograph. A flock of five or six green peafowl is often seen in the grassland close to the bear enclosure and we are always surrounded by a great variety of different wild birds. Rangers from our police patrol station in Stung Proat occasionally visit the forest around WRS to ensure the area is safe and the Community Anti‐
Poaching Units (CAPU) we implemented from Chi Phat regularly patrol the area. The teams assure me that there are no longer snares within a 5km radius of our release station. Perhaps an exaggeration, but all are encouraging signs nonetheless…