WWF, in a report titled “Land of Cats” said that while leopards may still be roaming free in Cambodia, their numbers are scarce and are in the verge of being extinct.
It added that leopards are almost certainly extinct in the region, according to the report, underlining that the sign of extinction does not exist only in the region, but also globally.
A fifth of the world’s 36 cat species are found in a single landscape straddling Thailand and Myanmar, but they too, are under increasing threat of extinction.
The tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, Asiatic golden cats, marbled cats, jungle cats and leopard cats roam the forests of this vast landscape. It also includes the elusive fishing cat, which may also live there.
The seven, possibly eight cat species are holding on despite intense pressure from poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss due to land clearing for agriculture, unsustainable infrastructure and retaliation for killing livestock.
No report about tigers in Cambodia, even from camera traps in the forest have been reported, but early this month, a group of forest rangers in Oddar Meanchey province had claimed that they overheard a tiger’s roar – a rare incident indicating the existence of the endangered animal.
The update was shared in a news release issued by the Ministry of Environment, adding that the roaring sound was heard in protected area of Banteay Chmar where the rangers were camping.
The rangers heard the sound in the evening and presumed the tiger was about 20 to 30 metres away from the team.
The last record of tiger being seen in Cambodia was made in November 2007 at Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri province.
An earlier report released in 2018, said that in just five years, the population density of the Indochinese leopards within a protected area in eastern Cambodia has fallen from about 3 leopards per 100 square kilometers in 2009 to 1 leopard per 100 square kilometers in 2014.
This is one of the lowest densities of leopards reported in Asia, researchers say.
This statistic is worrying because the eastern Cambodian population is the last remaining breeding leopard population within a huge region spanning southeastern China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Eastern Cambodia’s leopards are also part of the only leopard population in the world to prey predominantly on an animal weighing more than 500 kilograms — the banteng.