The stripe-backed weasel, a rare carnivorous species, has been discovered in Virachey National Park in Ratanakkiri province, bordering the forested regions of Laos and Vietnam.
Writing about the discovery in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Small Carnivore Specialist Group’s latest biannual journal titled “Small Carnivore Conservation”, researchers Greg McCann, from Taiwan’s Chang Gung University, and Keith Pawlowski, from State University of New York, said that the images of the stripe-backed weasel were discovered by them as they were going through digital photos of a three-year camera-trapping survey in Virachey National Park carried out by Habitat ID and Virachey National Park staff.
“On February 14, 2015, a camera-trap photographed two images of a stripe-backed weasel – Mustela strigidorsa – along the O’Gan-Yu stream. Identification of the species was based on the whitish dorsal stripe clearly visible in the photograph that begins near the back of the head and continues in a straight line along the animal’s spine terminating at the base of the tail,” the researchers wrote.
“Confirmation of the species was made with the help small carnivore specialists and this record represents the first record of stripe-backed weasel in Cambodia.”
According to Mr McCann and Mr Pawlowski, Virachey National Park is some distance from other known records of the stripe-backed weasel.
“The nearest record comes from Vietnam in 1976 in Binh Tri Thien Province; the next closest record comes from Lao PDR at the border of Khammouan-Savannkhet province at an altitude of approximately 260 metres at 13h25 on November 20, 2008, where a lone stripe-back weasel was seen near the bottom of a cliff,” they added.
“Both locations are in the Annamite Mountains, and Virachey National Park is also located in the Annamite Mountains over 200 kilometres to the south.”
But the researchers pointed out that “the true southerly limits remain unclear” for the stripe-backed weasel.
“The Virachey National Park record in this paper marks a new southerly extension in Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) for the stripe-backed weasel,” the report noted.
The camera-trap station in Virachey National Park also uncovered other species such as the Asian elephant and the Asian small-clawed otter.
“It has been approximately ten years since Asian elephants were camera-trapped in Virachey National Park, and our records demonstrate that elephants still exist at the site and provide evidence of recent breeding,” said Mr McCann.
Despite the rich biodiversity in Virachey National Park, its future remains highly uncertain.
According to the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency, there are three main areas within Cambodia where substantial illegal logging operations were still underway.
The three areas included Virachey National Park in Ratanakkiri province, the forests surrounding the Lower Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng province, and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondolkiri province.
“This presents a serious threat to elephants in the landscape. Urgent measures should be taken by the government and NGOs in Cambodia to safeguard this wild elephant herd, which may be the last in Ratanakkiri province,” said Mr McCann.