a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
Kulen Prontemp is an area that protects an expanse of beautiful tropical deciduous woodlands, with several species of birds that are now quite rare. It is reported to be the largest protected area in Cambodia.
I spent a week in northern Cambodia, including three days in this area specifically. The woodlands were fascinating and I would have loved to have spent more time there, but work commitments plus the daily expense of the car, driver and guides meant I had to keep it short.
It has been claimed that these woodlands once held the largest assemblage of mammals outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Today, this is not the case, with few mammals to be seen. The most common (and cutest) was the Cambodian Striped Squirrel, complete with fluffy white ears.
The main wildlife in the area are the birds. The Sam Veasna guides focus on birds, and target specific species. These target species include two ibis; the impressively big 'Giant Ibis' and the beautiful 'White-shouldered Ibis' . The White-shouldered Ibis is one of the rarest large birds in the world. They are only found in small restricted areas within south-east Asia. Cambodia is considered the main stronghold for the species, with perhaps a few hundred. Unlike most waterbirds, they tend to feed along the open forest floor, and occasionally on the edge of seasonal pools.
There is a wide diversity of birds, including some that are widespread across tropical Asia, but also several others that are much more restricted.
The part of the avifauna I was most impressed by was the diversity of woodpeckers.
Your average person probably thinks of North America or Europe when they think of these birds, but, like most plant and animal groups, they are far more diverse in the tropics, and specifically, in parts of tropical Africa, the tropical Americas, and south-east Asia.
This part of south-east Asia is a hotspot for different species of woodpeckers of different sizes shapes and colours, and different niches...
The forest here is called ‘Deciduous forest’ to distinguish it locally from the ‘Evergreen forest’. In other parts of the world, this would be known as Tropical Woodlands and Tropical Rainforest respectively.
Access is difficult in this remote area. Most people that visit the area looking for wildlife go through Sam Veasna tours. I do not know of anyone else conducting tours there. When in the area on organized tours, most naturalists stay at Tmatboey Lodge.
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? The first expedition I am booked to work on after the virus is Micronesia, New Guinea & Indonesia in 2021 with Silversea. Meanwhile I am giving a lecture on the Sunshine Coast (Australia) on the "Sounds of suburban south-east Queensland"