Paradise of the Past
A visit to this ecoregion would be like stepping back in time, returning to an era when much more of Asia was filled with large animals such as tigers, Asian elephants, and Javan rhinoceroses. Today, this ecoregion still retains large, intact landscapes that allow these animals and many other species to survive. Unfortunately, plans are afoot to log these forests, so one day soon this wildlife paradise could truly be a thing of the past.
These low hills contain a variety of plants that have adapted to the seasonal monsoon rains. Forests range from evergreen dry forests to semi-evergreen tracts dominated by dipterocarps, tall trees with leathery, evergreen leaves, and other species. The dense undergrowth is filled with shrubs such as tree ferns and chain fern rhizome. Epiphytes÷plants that grow on other plants÷are abundant here as well.
Local Cambodians talk of a mythological forest man who has razor-sharp forearms that allow him to cut through the dense underbrush. But the real species that have adapted to this dense forest environment÷such as the regionâs largest carnivore, the tiger÷are even more wonderful. Although the tigerâs numbers have dropped significantly, this ecoregion overlaps with three high-priority tiger conservation areas. Asian elephants also have room to roam here. No less than 455 bird species live here too, including the endangered giant ibis and white-winged duck. Perhaps most significantly, this ecoregion harbors a small population of the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros. Considered the rarest large mammal in the world, the Javan rhinoceros is a solitary animal that closely resembles the great Indian rhinoceros, but is slightly smaller.
Cause for Concern
Although two thirds of this ecoregion have been cleared or degraded for plantations, especially in Vietnam and Thailand, habitat in Cambodia is relatively intact. Now that large-scale logging concessions in that country have been approved, however, this ecoregionâs conservation status has changed from relatively stable to critical. Continued hunting and the presence of old land mines and unexploded bombs also threaten wildlife.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001