All images are the property of Rhett Butler, copyright 2003.
Contact me regarding use and reproduction.
Following a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns; over 1 million displaced people died from execution or enforced hardships. A 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and touched off almost 20 years of fighting. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy as did the rapid diminishment of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1990s. A coalition government, formed after national elections in 1998, brought renewed political stability and the surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces in 1998. [CIA World Factbook]
Recommended travel guides on Cambodia:
Conservation articles for Cambodia:
Video: camera traps highlight wildlife diversity of 'forgotten' park
Things appeared to be on the upswing in Cambodia's vast Virachey National Park in the early 2000s. Conservation groups were surveying the area and the World Bank had committed $5 million in funds. But then the Cambodia government handed out a mining exploration permit covering 90 percent of the park.
'Trying to follow the money': Opacity rules in Southeast Asia's land rush, finds study
As the rush for land in Southeast Asia continues at breakneck speed, often bringing with it social and environmental destruction, a new study by a major environmental research group explores how well investors really know where their money is going, and the possibilities and limits of existing data in achieving greater accountability.
Coordinated protests hit Socfin plantations in four countries
French NGO ReAct is coordinating protest actions against the plantation operations of Socfin, a Belgian company with origins in the Belgian Congo. Yesterday, protesters gathered in Paris outside the headquarters of Bolloré, another conglomerate which holds a 39 percent stake in Socfin. Other demonstrations have been staged in three African countries and Cambodia in recent weeks.
Proposed border checkpoint and road threaten critical Cambodian forest and wildlife
A proposed border checkpoint at Kbal Damrei, on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, together with a new road leading up to it, may harm Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest. The proposed border crossing is slated to be developed within Mondulkiri Protected Forest, in Eastern Cambodia.
Activist deported from Cambodia continues fighting dam from abroad
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson has been campaigning to prevent construction of a proposed dam on the Areng River in the Cardamom Mountains. The Cambodian government deported him in February, but evidence is mounting that the dam project may have stalled.
Growing need for deforestation-free rubber as tire demand destroys native forests
Surging demand for natural rubber is decimating some of the world's most endangered forests, putting wildlife and critical ecosystem services at risk, warn scientists writing in the journal Conservation Letters. Reviewing a large body of published research, Eleanor Warren-Thomas of the University of East Anglia and colleagues detail the crop's expansion across across Southeast Asia in recent decades.
New wormy amphibians discovered in Southeast Asia
Worms come in all different sizes, shapes, textures, colors, and flavors. Some attack human digestive systems, some surface after a rainstorm, and some come in plastic wrappers, covered in sour sugar, at the local grocery store. Despite their similar features and anatomies, many of the real worms (not the sugar kind) demonstrate convergent evolution, meaning they are not related but have independently evolved similar features.
Cambodia deports activist leader...then suspends controversial dam
On Monday, Cambodia deported well-known environmental activist, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, back to his native Spain. Co-founder of the Cambodian NGO, Mother Nature, Gonzalez-Davidson played a vital role in blocking efforts to build the Cheay Areng Dam. But a day after deporting the activist, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said the country would postpone the dam until 2018.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Shifting the way the world shops (commentary)
If you are what you eat, then just as true, you are what you buy. From organic, fair-trade, responsible palm oil, Wildlife Friendly, and most recently deforestation-free, consumers can cast their lot with a variety of eco-friendly labels and define who they are by what they buy. It gives someone in New York City the chance to contribute to forest protection in Indonesia by using their wallets to influence the sustainability of the supply chain that serves them with goods.
Saving Asia's other endangered cats (photos)
It's no secret that when it comes to the wild cats of Asia—and, really, cats in general—tigers get all the press. In fact, tigers—down to an estimated 3,200 individuals—arguably dominate conservation across Asia. But as magnificent, grand, and endangered as the tigers are, there are a number of other felines in the region that are much less studied—and may be just as imperiled.
Another environmental journalist killed in Cambodia
Another Cambodian journalist has been gunned down while investigating illegal logging by state officials.
NASA: Forest loss leaps in Bolivia, Mekong region
New satellite data from NASA suggests that deforestation is sharply increasing in Bolivia and Mekong countries during the second quarter of 2014.
Is the banteng making a comeback? Researchers find new population in Cambodia
Researchers have discovered a new population of banteng, a species of wild cattle, in northwestern Cambodia. The discovery was announced June 4, 2014 by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), and efforts are underway to implement conservation initiatives to protect the area and its newfound banteng, which are listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
Researchers discover new species of wolf snake in Cambodia, name it after an Australian zoo
A new species of wolf snake has been discovered in the Cardamom Mountains of southeast Cambodia.
Bears, cats, and mystery mammals: camera traps in 'paper park' prove it's worth protecting
Can a single photograph change the fate of a park? A new conservation group, HabitatID, believes so, and is putting this belief into action. Setting up camera traps in Cambodia's Virachey National Park, the group hopes that photos of charismatic and endangered species will help reinvigorate protection for a park that has been abandoned by conservation groups and underfunded by the government.
Chinese luxury furniture linked to murder, near extinction
Intricately carved, meticulously designed, and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars: this is "hongmu," or Chinese luxury furniture reflecting the elite styles of the Ming and Qing dynasties. But while the red-colored furniture may be aesthetically beautiful, it comes with a blood price.
NASA detects surge in deforestation in Malaysia, Bolivia during first quarter of 2014
Forest disturbance in Malaysia, Bolivia, Panama, and Ecuador surged during the first quarter of 2014, according to NASA data.
Cambodia protects forest for giant ibis
Cambodia has set aside an area of forest just slightly smaller than Singapore to protect the country's national bird: the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea). Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the giant ibis is down to just a few hundred birds.
NASA data reveals impact of cyclones on forests in Vietnam, Madagascar
Forest disturbance in Madagascar and Vietnam increased significantly in the aftermath of cyclones that hit the countries last year, according to a forest tracking tool developed by a team of NASA researchers.
Cambodian communities best placed to prevent illegal logging
A study on deforestation in Cambodia has found that forests are better protected when local communities are given the responsibility to manage them locally. Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, losing 1.2 per cent each year from 2005-2010. The loss of forests due to illegal logging, commercial agriculture, and other factors can have a devastating impact on local communities, as well as contributing to global climate change. In a country beset by corruption and ineffectual state forest management, alternative models of forest protection are clearly needed.
Only suspect in Cambodian journalist's murder acquitted
The only suspect in 2012 slaying of Hang Serei Oudom, a Cambodian environmental journalist, has been acquitted of murder by a court in Cambodia, reports the AFP.
New bird species discovered in Cambodia's largest city
A previously unknown species of bird has been found hiding in plain sight after scientists photographed what was thought to be more abundant species at a construction site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capitol and largest city. Subsequent analysis revealed the species to be distinct.
Featured video: a glimpse into the life of Cambodia’s Asian elephant
The Cambodian Government’s Forestry Administration has recently teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in order to peer into the daily lives of the country’s Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus). Through the use of camera traps, the organizations caught an intimate glimpse of the regular, day-to-day behavior of these animals.
Mekong region has lost a third of its forests in 30 years, may lose another third by 2030
The Greater Mekong region of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam will lose a third of its remaining forest cover by 2030 unless regional governments improve management of natural resources and transition toward a greener growth model, warns a new report issued by WWF.
The river of plenty: uncovering the secrets of the amazing Mekong
Home to giant catfish and stingrays, feeding over 60 million people, and with the largest abundance of freshwater fish in the world, the Mekong River, and its numerous tributaries, brings food, culture, and life to much of Southeast Asia. Despite this, little is known about the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Mekong, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of freshwater biodiversity. Meanwhile, the river is facing an existential crisis in the form of 77 proposed dams, while population growth, pollution, and development further imperil this understudied, but vast, ecosystem.
Poachers enlisting impoverished wildlife rangers as accomplices in elephant, rhino killing
Corruption among wildlife rangers is becoming a serious impediment in the fight against poaching, fuelled by soaring levels of cash offered by criminal poacher syndicates, senior conservation chiefs have admitted. Rangers in countries as diverse as Tanzania and Cambodia are being bribed by increasingly organised poaching gangs keen to supply ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts to meet huge consumer demand in Asia.
Cambodia loses half its seasonal wetlands in 10 years
Cambodia lost more than half of its seasonally flooded grasslands in ten years due to industrial agricultural conversion, abandonment of traditional farming, and illegal drainage, putting several endangered bird species at risk and undermining traditional livelihoods in the region, reports a new study published in the journal Conservation Biology.
Into the unknown mountains of Cambodia: rare birds, rice wine, and talk of tigers
Ringed with forested mountains forming the borders with Laos and Vietnam, the northeast corner of Cambodia has been an intriguing blank spot among my extensive travels through the country. Nestled up against this frontier is Virachey National Park, created in 1993. I began searching for a way to explore this area a couple of years ago, hoping to connect with conservation NGOs to get me into the park; no one seemed to know much about it. I learned that the area had been written off by these groups due to massive land concessions given to logging and rubber concerns. The World Bank abandoned its 8-year effort to create a management scheme for Virachey after the concessions were granted in 2007. A moratorium on the concessions is temporarily in place, but illegal logging incursions into the park continue.
Captive frogs may be spreading diseases to wild cousins across Southeast Asia
Scientists have documented a series of links between exotic frogs for trade and diseases in wild frogs in Southeast Asia, including the first documented case of the chytrid fungus—a virulent and lethal disease—in Singapore. According to researchers writing in a new study in EcoHealth, frogs imported into Southeast Asia as pets, food, or traditional medicine are very likely spreading diseases to wild populations.