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Tuesday, November 26: Day 218 – Kerplop!

Today we kayaked up river to the ranger station. Along the way we saw several kingfishers hunting for a meal. There was a red squirrel tidying up his nest in the trees.

At the ranger stations there are 13 rangers: two station chiefs from the Wildlife Alliance, seven from the Ministry of Environment and four military police. The latter two groups have the ability to make arrests yet the Wildlife Alliance chiefs oversee the process because, if not present, the others would take bribes from the poachers for their illegal activities.

The rangers live in the ranger station year-round and uncover snares, chainsaws and homemade guns.

There are specific snares for different animals such as pangolins, monkeys, and birds.

It is very dangerous work and some wildlife enforcement officers have been killed. They are making an impact as there has been a 90% reduction of confiscated items over recent years. However, only yesterday they confiscated a sophisticated trapping mechanism that used an iPad making a mating noise so that others would come to the trap.

The pangolin is the only mammal with scales and could be considered a scaly anteater. Specialized dogs sniff them out. These dogs are treated better than family members. If the rangers find them, the dogs are shot and killed.

Pangolin is the most hunted species, and its scales consisting of keratin, which is the same as fingernails, are used by the Chinese as traditional medicines and the meat eaten as an expensive delicacy.

Listen to this National Geographic video for more interesting information about pangolins:

There is an elephant zone outside their protected zone that the land owners have agreed not to develop in order to keep it open for elephants migrating in search of food.

The rangers can only prevent logging inside the protected zone but illegal poaching of wild animals is a crime throughout Cambodia. Four years ago one could hear chainsaws every day. Today they don’t hear any because of the good job that the rangers are doing.

Sinam is our guide on the left and the Wildlife Alliance Chief is in the grey. The camouflage men are from the Ministry of Environment and the tall dark man is Military Police.

Day Hike

We started our three-hour hike through the forest back to camp. The first step was getting across the river by kayak. We went last, and I was determined to improve on the techniques of those hikers that went before us.

Hey! I noticed this rope and decided to use it to get into the boat. I didn’t realize that it was elastic like a bungee cord. Kerplop!

If one is ever lost in the forest, here are a few things that would be helpful; Use the rattan plant for water. If monkey eats something, you can eat it. (Follow the locals.)

A grandfather gives money to grandchildren especially the grandchild that looks after him in his old age. This is mostly gold.

There are no wills, but courts get involved in dividing up the property. People in a family are sometimes killed to get a bigger share of the gold and land.

Some recipients sell the land for money. Some use that money for new businesses, others just buy cars, etc.

This is a termite mound that has been ravaged by a pangolin as that is his favorite food. Pangolins prefer to live in tree holes and hunt ants at night.

Beautiful butterflies are hard to photograph as they are in constant movement.

At first glance, we yelled snake! Actually it is a very large earthworm.

Plants are probably the most dangerous items in the forest.

Do you see the insect that looks like a tan leaf?

A pitcher plant is able to capture insects that fly into it. We saw a few worms and a mosquito larvae inside.

We do not know what this caterpillar eventually becomes, but it sure is a colorful caterpillar.

We stopped beside about a dozen different types of trees that have specific uses. They have been marked with placards.

A Shadow Tree makes lots of shade and is prized by monks who build their spirit house nearby this type of tree.

Let’s plant more of these trees!!

Lazy River

During the afternoon, we were encouraged to enjoy time around the dock for swimming, tubing, or kayaking. We spent time floating in black inner tubes.

Nighttime Wildlife

The most interesting low tech way to observe moths is to put up a white sheet vertically with two sticks. Then mount a nearby light bulb that is turned on at night.

After dinner we went on a guided river expedition looking for wildlife that only comes out at night.

We saw several water dragons balancing on limbs over the river. They wrapped their arms around the branches.

The biggest find was a civet although he soon retreated with four flashlights on him so no photos were possible.

The White-Lipped Pit Viper was a beautiful color of green. We saw two in different places both hanging out at the water’s edge looking for an unfortunate frog. They were motionless.

Our guide, Sinam, said that he will come back the next day and they will still be there. We were six feet away taking pictures.

The funniest thing that happened was a loud kerplop near the right side of our boat. We looked up and spotted a Greater Hornbill that had just pooped and narrowly missed our boat. Sinam said that monkeys often aim at the boats. Fortunately for us, this was only a near miss. The large bird flew beautifully away…chuckling no doubt.

The scariest thing was spotting a Mangrove Snake. He was moving rapidly toward us, and Sinam told the boat driver to step on it. After we passed it, Sinam said that they are attracted by the light and will jump into the boat!!! We didn’t know this when we were relaxing in our inner tubes this afternoon.

The tastiest part was our guide spearing lobsters for the staff. They knew just where to find them. I guess lobsters are not a protected species.

We also saw monkeys asleep in the trees. Their backs were turned so that the lights did not disturb their slumber. There were frogs resting on logs.

Sinam wears a headlamp to help us find the nocturnal animals. This also attracts insects. He doesn’t like to wear it as many biting insects go down his shirt. I picked a few cicadas off his back.

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