Cambodia is one of the most biodiverse countries in Southeast Asia, with as many as 8,260 plant species (10% of which may be endemic) along with more than 250 species of amphibian and reptile, 874 fish species and over 500 bird species.
Of particular interest to conservationists is a 10,000km2 area in the south-west of the country known as the Cardamom Mountain Landscape, which harbours a remarkable diversity of species including elephants, bears and gaur (the world’s largest bovine). Still relatively unexplored, this landscape has many secrets left to reveal, and new species are regularly discovered by biologists surveying its forests.
Cambodia also has a rich marine environment, with coral reefs surrounding almost all of its islands. Around 70 coral species are known to be found here, and the country also has extensive seagrass beds and mangrove habitats.
Like many other countries in the region, Cambodia faces the challenge of developing its economy and reducing poverty without ravaging its unique natural resources – a challenge made more difficult by restricted financial and technical capacity for sustainable environmental management.
As a result, forest cover in Cambodia has fallen by 20% since 1990, while destructive fishing practices – such as the use of explosives and poison – together with unsustainable developments are wreaking havoc on its marine environment.