Hidden natural wonder of Cambodia – Western Siem Pang
Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary forest area is located in far North-Eastern Cambodia, in Stung Treng Province, east of the Mekong river.
Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary covers a total of 132,321 ha, and this protected area is managed by the Ministry of Environment and Department of Environment of Stung Treng.
This area used to be managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries but in 2016 the Royal Government of Cambodia transferred the jurisdiction and management to the Ministry of Environment.
Western Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary is a unique and globally irreplaceable site.
It supports populations of five bird species listed by IUCN as Critically Endangered, including Cambodia’s national bird the giant ibis.
This means without immediate conservation interventions, these species face a high chance of global extinction.
There are very few sites globally that support this number of Critically Endangered species.
Trapeangs or pools are numerous within Western Siem Pang and they range in size from buffalo wallows to large pools with a diameter of 100 meters.
It is estimated that there are over 300 Trapeangs located in the Southern half of Western Siem Pang.
Trapeangs provide a vital source of water for wildlife during the dry season.
The dry season is the season of fire and drought throughout Western Siem Pang.
From November to April there are almost no rain in the dry forest. Almost the entire forest burns and water is scarce only found at rivers or Trapeangs.
By March most of the trapeangs will have dried up, the dry season is a harsh time in the forest and many animals and plants are pushed to their limits.
Almost the entire annual rainfall occurs during the wet season, which runs from April to October. There are no more forest fires and water is abundantly available.
Carpets of colourful wild flower cover the forest, and the forest becomes green. The Trapeangs quickly refill with water. This is the season of plenty for both wildlife and human alike.
Rivers fill and become ranging torrents sometimes breaking their banks.
The Wildlife of Western Siem Pang
Western Siem Pang supports populations of five critically endangered bird species incuding Giant Ibis, White-shouldered Ibis, Red-headed Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and White-rumped Vulture.
The giant ibis thrives in the most remote and undisturbed forest, only 300 remain of this species and these are all found in Cambodia. The population at Siem Pang is around 50 individuals.
Western Siem Pang Forest holds a population of 300 white shouldered ibis, while only 1,000 remain all found in Cambodia.
Sarus Crane breed at Western Siem Pang during the rain season, but in the dry season they migrate to other areas in Cambodia which have greater food availability.
Three vulture species breed in south east asia and all of them occur in significant numbers in Western Siem Pang.
They include the white rumped vulture, slender billed vulture and red headed vulture.
These species used to be common across South Asia, but they have suffered a 99% population crash due to digesting diclofenac, an antiflamatory drug used as a Veterinary treatment in livestock.
Eld’s deer once found across Indochina, has been hunted to extinction in Thailand and Vietnam, they are now only found in Cambodia and Laos.
Current population estimated for Western Siem Pang put the population around 50 to 100 individuals. Sadly hunting is still occurring within the local communities that surround the forest.
Late march marks the breeding season or rut, where stags start rounding up and defending harems of females.