project news

Disfigured Discoveries

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 16 Apr 2010


Our news this week follows the research exploits of our team in Botum Sakor National Park, situated towards the southwest of Cambodia in the Thai border province Kaoh Kong. Unfortunately, when doing a review of the most recent report for the region, we stumbled on to some unsettling news. As part of a study investigating the Civet abundance and dietary analysis, a series of traps where used to catch these creatures. When both the bucket traps and small mammal traps where checked, some startling news unfolded. It was evident that several animals caught had physical deformities. For example, one of the yellow rajah rats captured had a forelimb that was not fully formed; one of the speckled forest skinks had a forked tail and one of the male garden fence lizards had a growth on its underside that made it appear to be holding eggs internally. In nature it is not uncommon to see abnormalities or defects; however, this incidence appears to be no coincidence.

In the surrounding rural areas outside the confines of the national park, there are large areas of farmland worked by underprivileged families, barely surviving under the poverty line. With such extreme pressures opposing these communities, any opportunity that presents itself is heralded as a lifeline. In the hope of maximising crop production, farmers tend to use a series of methods as a means to limit the damage to their crops. Most worryingly, many farmers adopt the use of illegal cocktails of pesticides with increasingly disastrous effects.

Since Rachel Carson published her ground breaking book in the 1970’s entitled Silent Spring on the effects of pesticides on people and the environment, these dangers have been readily acknowledged. However, many farmers in Cambodia are simply unaware of these implications and are choosing to use pesticides as a result of seductive marketing and general prevalence in the country. As it happens, the term pesticide when translated to Khmer (the native language) includes the word ‘thnam’, meaning medicine. It is ironic then that these farmers are trying to treat or mend their own land by using these products, when they are effectively destroying their surrounding ecosystems. This is certainly a very pressing issue in the region, and one we must monitor in the future phases of research.

Ed Cremin

Read more about our Cambodia Tropical Wildlife Conservation Adventure Project