Cambodia

The Hog deer expedition 2018, Mekong river, Kratie

Hog deer (Axis porcinus) were once widespread throughout much of lowland Southern and mainland Southeast Asia (Evans 1902), but numbers have rapidly declined during the last two decades (2015 IUCN status “Endangered”). At this moment, few isolated populations remain which are vulnerable to uncontrolled hunting and wildlife trade (Bezuijen et al. 2008), while traditional farming associated with cutting and burning of tall grasslands is reducing food availability and cover of suitable habitat. Furthermore, since hog deer find food and cover in pioneer vegetation such as Saccharum spp. (Odden et al. 2005, Odden and Wegge 2007), ongoing dam construction and associated flood control additionally results in the loss of prime hog deer habitat through accelerated secondary succession (Odden et al. 2005).

In Cambodia, a former hog deer stronghold, the species had been considered extinct until 2006 when a subpopulation (Axis porcinus annamiticus) was rediscovered along the western banks of the Mekong river in the Kratie Province (Maxwell et al. 2006).

Cambodia now holds the only known wild population of the annamiticus subspecies (Maxwell et al. 2006, Timmins et al. 2015).

There were no other direct hog deer sightings between 2006 and 2017, but there have been a couple of indirect sightings (tracks, dung, credible local reports). A second hog deer population was discovered in 2008 by Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) in the coastal lowlands of southwest Cambodia (Timmins & Sechrest 2012). In 2017, WWF Cambodia captured another four individual hog deer on camera traps in the same area where Maxwell et al. (2006) had rediscovered the species. This same area is now threatened by miners aiming for minerals, oil and gas (Source: Mongabay, 17 January 2018). As a result, it has become clear that urgent legal protection of the area is key to the survival of the Cambodian (sub-)species. The willingness to cooperate is high among local villagers and farmers (pers. comm. Channa Phan). Such local involvement increases the chance of effectively establishing a protected region.

An area of ± 52.000 ha within the Kratie province, Cambodia, has been proposed by WWF Cambodia as a potential hog deer protected area. This region is located along the western banks of the Mekong river and includes (temporal) flood plains, marshes, forests, (rice) fields, and is close to some small villages. Hog deer are water bound and serve as umbrella species, meaning that protection of high-quality hog deer habitat (i.e. floodplain grasslands and –forests) will indirectly lead to the protection of many other species. One of those species is tiger, which shares hog deer habitat and for which hog deer is one of its preferred prey.

To date, scientific estimates on hog deer population data are lacking for the area, and it is unclear how many hog deer may actually be present. Additionally very little is known on the overall biodiversity in the region, and what other vulnerable species are present in the region that would benefit from a protected zone. The aim of this research project is to estimate activity patterns, occupancy and density of hog deer by combining grid camera trapping with a pellet study. In addition, this Biodiversity Express Survey (BES) will look at other small and large terrestrial mammal species, birds, amphibians, reptiles and several invertebrate taxa such as hawkmoths, saturnids, dragonflies, spiders and scorpions amongst others.

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Contact

Dr. Merlijn Jocque (Belgium)