An homage to the country's diversity
Published/Last edited or updated: 12th September, 2016
A centre dedicated to protecting and preserving some of Cambodia’s most at-risk wildlife, the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity allows visitors a chance to appreciate the wild diversity of this beautiful country.
It can be easy on a short trip to Cambodia to overlook its rich and diverse natural world. And while Cambodia continues to make huge strides, and sometimes tiny steps, in its development, it is still so under-resourced that huge swaths of the country’s natural environment have not been documented. No one knows for sure how many species of mammal, reptile, bird or bug are out there, and the same applies to Cambodia’s flora.
Meanwhile, whatever is there faces lethal threats from land conversion, illegal tree logging, poaching and, of course, that very development that is taking the rest of Cambodia forward. Several organisations are working hard, against a clock working on double-time, to record and protect what is there. Some of them are experiencing real success, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society’s programme to protect the giant ibis (Cambodia’s national bird) and more than 40 other bird species around Tmatboey in Preah Vihear province. Others, less so. And Cambodia now holds the dubious honour of being the most dangerous place in the world to be an environmental journalist.
Even around Siem Reap, illegal logging continues in areas such as Phnom Kulen to the northeast of Angkor Wat. This is the hill on which the Khmer Empire was seeded, before moving down to the lowlands in the ninth century. There too, conversion of forest and rice fields to cashew production is having dire effects on the environment, and by extension on the wildlife that depends on it. It wasn’t that long ago that a small population of Indochinese silver langurs were identified and formally described on Phnom Kulen. While we do know how many species of birds are up there, the same can’t be said for the mammals, reptiles and insects, yet they may be disappearing from right under our noses and we will never know what we missed, or be able to take steps to protect them.
This is part of what makes projects like the ACCB so important. They provide a small bulwark against the devastation wrought by loggers, poachers, and developers, providing a resource, a refuge and rehabilitation for animals that have been rescued, primarily from poachers, but sometimes from families that simply don’t know that keeping endangered species is against the law, and a drive for conservation of those still out in the wild.
It’s now home to a wide range of birds and mammals, including a pangolin — the most trafficked animal in the world — gibbons, silvered langurs, Asian palm civets, leopard cats, porcupines, and more. Among the birds, are woolly-necked storks, saris cranes — Cambodia’s national bird — greater and lesser adjutants, colourful peafowl, owls, eagles and the stunning Brahminy kite.
The Centre is just over 40 kilometres from Siem Reap, about an hour in a tuk tuk, faster with a moto. They hold scheduled, guided tours at 09:00 and 13:00, and it’s not possible to visit outside of those unless with a group by pre-arrangement. The tours last about an hour and a half, and are not charged for as such, though a minimum donation of $3.50 is requested. You are, of course, free to leave more.
To integrate a visit to the centre with a full-day tour, we’d recommend a trip to beautiful Banteay Srei — the first temple within the Angkor park to be restored — and then Kbal Spean with its river of a thousand lingas in the morning, followed by lunch at the food stalls in front of the ACCB. You can drop in for the tour at 13:00, and then follow that up with a visit to the Angkor Butterfly Centre and the Landmine Museum. You would spend about an hour at the Museum, and could get absorbed by the Butterfly Centre for half an hour or more — we love it there. And you’d still be back to town in time for a sunset drink.
The Centre is just over 40 kilometres from Siem Reap, about an hour in a tuk tuk, faster with a moto.
Address: Kabul Spean, Siem Reap
T: (0990) 604 017;
Coordinates (for GPS): 104º1'31.35" E, 13º40'42.3" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: $3.50 donation
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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