The forests around Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Temple Complex will soon be home once more to a species of deer that had disappeared from the area due to excessive hunting during the latter part of the last century.
Listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, the sambar is the latest species set for reintroduction into the area as part of an ambitious re-wilding scheme which has already seen gibbons and langurs successfully released.
The project is a partnership between conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance; the official body charged with protecting the Angkor heritage site, the Apsara Authority; and the Forestry Administration.
According to Wildlife Alliance director Nick Marx, the scheme only aims to reintroduce species that have a history of inhabiting the area, but have either disappeared or seen numbers severely depleted.
“We have these wonderful iconic forest temples, which are the cultural centre of Cambodia, but the natural heritage has been kind of forgotten, until now” he said.
Many of the animals released are confiscated from wildlife traders by Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team, or are the young of confiscated animals that have been cared for by the NGO at one of their three centres across the country.
Marx says the male sambar and two females set to initially be released will arrive within the next three months, and after a six-month period of acclimatisation, will be let free.
According to Marx, though reintroduction schemes inevitably encounter obstacles, such as continued hunting or the animals not adapting to their new environment, they are an essential final step in his organisation’s work.
“We’re confiscating huge numbers of wildlife.
We can’t just keep putting them in cages,” he said. “We have to start thinking of a beyond.”