Phnom Penh Post
Friday April 22, 1994
By Michael Hayes
T HE most ambitious effort in more than four decades to document the existence of Cambodia's national animal, the Kouprey, has determined, with a high degree of certainty, that the world's rarest bovine does in fact exist in small numbers in remote corners of Mondolkiri province.
More importantly, the Thayer Expedition has documented categorically the existence of other species in signifacent numbers including the gaur, banteng, barking deer, wild pig, Asian wild dog, red headed vulture, whooly-necked stork, red junglefowl and peacock, all of which are rapidly approaching "endangered species" status throughout Asia.
While the Kouprey was not actually sighted by the Thayer expdition, evidence collected from animal tracks and recent sightings indicates that the Kouprey is alive and extremely endangered with perhaps as few as six to 10 animals surviving precariously in virtually unhabited jungle areas in one of the Kingdom's most isolated districts.
Based on this new information, the Royal Government has a unique opportunity to act quickly and definitively to safeguard an important national symbol, a step that would not only guarantee the survival of the Kouprey but which in the long run would be of immense benefit to the nation.
His Majesty The King, the Royal Government, the recalcitrant Khmer Rouge and all friends of Cambodia must act now to save the Kouprey. To wait even one minute longer would be sheer folly.
To the point, the government needs to declare the northeast corner of Mondolkiri Province as a national reserve or wildlife park and take whatever measures necessary to protect the animals which still exist there .
The animals in Mondolkiri are rapidly vanishing from their shrinking enclaves. However, Cambodia, unlike many other nations in this part of Asia, still retains significant populations of rare species which stand head and shoulders above what exists eleswhere regionally.
The most saleable argument, among many, for safeguarding this wildlife is the long-term potential for engendering revenues as a result of the worldwide intersest in wildlife tourism, of which the Kingdom is still well-placed to take advantage. In a nutshell, people all over the world are willing to spend thousands of dollars to see rare wild animals in their native habitat.
The opportunity for a bold expression of visionary leadership is
waiting to be grasped. The Khmer people will only reap the benefits of such action for centuries to come.
What better reason is there to grab (gently) the cow by the horns? And, more to the point, which Khmer will go down in history as the individual who had the forsight to protect for eternity one of the Kingdom's most treasured national symbols?