Botum Sakor National Park is the biggest national park of Cambodia. Situated on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, Botum Sakor (or Botumsakor) is a peninsula projecting southwest from the Cardamom Mountains. The National Park comprises 171,250 hectares of designated park land and spans three districts of Koh Kong Province: Kiri Sakor, Botum Sakor and Koh Kong. The park is under the administration of the Cambodian Ministry of Environment.
Botum Sakor National Park has a very rich and varied wildlife, some of which is unique to the world. The Pileated Gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) are just one of eight globally endangered mammalian species found living here.
The national park of Botum Sakor has a very rich and varied wildlife that is unique in the world. Only very little on-location research has been done and published on the biodiversity of the area so far and for the remote interior of the park, no scientific investigation has ever been carried out, due to the area’s extremely hard terrainNevertheless, the limited available knowledge and emerging understanding, are clearly showing that this area is of very high importance on a global level, with many threatened and endemic species living here. More than a few are even listed as critically endangered on the international IUCN Red List. Therefore the establishment of the area as a national park in 1993, was an important step towards securing the biodiversity of planet Earth.
As of 2009, evidence of over 44 mammal species have been found within the national park boundaries, eight of which are of high conservation priority, being listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, some of them critically. These endangered species includes the Sunda Pangolin (anis javanica), Bengal Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis), Indochinese Lutung (Trachypithecus germaini), Hog Deer (Axis porcinus), Dhole (Cuon alpinus), Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), and Pileated Gibbon (Hylobates pileatus). Local poachers affirm,that the Pileated gibbons here forms a considerable population and it has been speculated, that the national park might in fact contain as much as 10% of the global population. Recent camera-trap evidence suggests, that the area is also home to the critically endangered Indochinese tiger.
Many other threatened species have their home in Botum Sakor National Park, in fact over a quarter of the mammalian species here are of conservation interest due to their global status.These include large-toothed ferret badger (Melogale personata), hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana), smooth-coated otter (Lutra perspicillata), Sambar deer, Large-spotted civet and more. There is a possibility that sun bear and moon bear might be present as well.
Amphibians and reptiles
Surprisingly only a relatively small number of amphibian species have been found on the premisses of the national park. The area was expected to hold a large number of species, since the Cardamom Mountains are home to many and there are a broader variety of ecosystems to be found in Botum Sakor, compared to the mountains. Many of the amphibians found in the park, are of great importance nonetheless. Both the Mortensen’s frog (Rana mortenseni) and Spine-Glanded Mountain Frog (Paa fasciculispina) are endemic to the south west of Cambodia and the Thailand-owned section of the Cardamom mountain range and there are two threatened species of turtle and one species of tortoise living here.
Most of the many reptiles of Botum Sakor are snakes, including charismatic species such as the king cobra and the Malay pit viper. Snakes are regularly seen, and subsequently hacked to death by local residents, at local plantations. There is also a known small population of Siamese crocodiles in some of the parks creeks. Cambodia in fact retains the worlds largest population of this critically endangered species, which was recently (2007) thought to be extinct even. The larger saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is also here, and although it is of least concern from a global conservational viewpoint, they are threatened in South-east Asia. In Cambodia, saltwater crocodiles are thought to be restricted to Koh Kong Province.
There are several hundred species of birds to be found within the park area, but only preliminary research has been carried out so far. Of particular interest to conservationists is the white-winged duck (Cairina scutulata), which is endangered and one of the rarest waterfowl in Asia. There are a number of other threatened or near-threatened birds here too, like green peafowl (Pavo muticus), lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster), great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and grey-headed fish eagle (Icthyophaga icthyaetus).
The research on the Lepidopterans (butterflies and moths) in Botum Sakor, is also preliminary and at the same time unique for the country as a whole, since very little research on this group have been published on Cambodia at all. As of 2009, 147 species of lepidoterans have been recorded in the park, with as many as 49 species in the Nymphalidae family alone. Almost all the Lepidoteran species (and individuals) were found in the dense forests or the swamp forests, with very few in the open areas of meadow and river edge habitats. Apart from the Nymphalidae, a larger number of species of the Satyridae family has also been registered in the swampy forest habitats; a mean of 38 species per habitat area. The most common species in the park overall, seems to be the common evening brown butterfly (Melanitis leda: Satyridae). Due to the lack of identification literature on butterflies and moths in Cambodia, a number of unidentifiable species have been caught during research projects.