New gecko species discovery in Cambodia

This October 2019 video says about itself:

Lizards of Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo. A complete list of all the species featured as well as their respective time stamps are as below: 0:04 Ornate Earless Agama (Aphaniotis fusca) 0:07 Great Anglehead Lizard (Gonocephalus grandis) 0:13 Frilled Gecko (Hemidactylus craspedotus)’s trophobiosis with Pyrops oculatus. 0:19 Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) 0:25 Beautiful Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus elok) 0:34 Peters’ Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus consobrinus) 0:37 Borneo Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus malayanus) 0:44 Marbled Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus) 0:46 Bell’s Anglehead Lizard (Gonocephalus bellii) 0:52 Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) 0:55 Viserion’s False Garden Lizard (Pseudocalotes viserion) 1:01 South Titiwangsa Bent-toed Gecko (Cytodactylus australotitiwangsaensis) 1:07 Brown’s Fringe Gecko (Luperosaurus browni) 1:13 Robinson’s Forest Dragon (Malayodracon robinsonii) 1:19 Kuhl’s Flying Gecko (Ptychozoon kuhli) 1:28 Sabah Flying Gecko (Ptychozoon rhacophorus) 1:34 Kinabalu Crested Dragon (Hypsicalotes kinabaluensis) 1:40 Smith’s Gecko (Gekko smithii) 1:47 Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felinus) 1:55 Blue-eyed Anglehead Lizard (Gonocephalus liogaster) 2:01 Peninsular Rock Gecko (Cnemaspis peninsularis) 2:04 Five-banded Flying Lizard (Draco quinquefasciatus) 2:10 Titiwangsa Horned Tree Lizard (Acanthosaura titiwangsaensis) 2:16 Doria’s Anglehead Lizard (Gonocephalus doriae)

From the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in the USA:

Scientists discover bent-toed gecko species in Cambodia

April 13, 2020

A new species of bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus phnomchiensis) has been described from Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary by Wild Earth Allies Biologist Thy Neang in collaboration with North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Herpetologist Bryan Stuart. This new species is described in ZooKeys.

The species was discovered by Thy Neang during Wild Earth Allies field surveys in June-July 2019 on an isolated mountain named Phnom Chi in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary when he encountered an unusual species of bent-toed gecko. “It was an extremely unexpected discovery. No one thought there were undescribed species in Prey Lang,” said Neang.

The geckos were found to belong to the C. irregularis species complex that includes at least 19 species distributed in south¬ern and central Vietnam, eastern Cambodia, and southern Laos. This is the first member of the complex to be found west of the Mekong River, demonstrating how biogeographic barriers can lead to speciation. Additionally, the geckos were unique in morphological characters and mitochondrial DNA, and distinct from C. ziegleri to which they are most closely related. Researchers have named the species Cyrtodactylus phnomchiensis after Phnom Chi mountain where it was found.

Bent-toed geckos of the genus Cyrtodactylus are one of the most species-diverse genera of gekkonid lizards, with 292 recognized species. Much of the diversity within Cyrtodactylus has been described only during the past decade and from mainland Southeast Asia, and many of these newly recognized species are thought to have extremely narrow geographic ranges. As such, Cyrtodactylus phnomchiensis is likely endemic to Phnom Chi, which consists of an isolated small mountain of rocky outcrops (peak of 652 m elevation) and a few associated smaller hills, altogether encompassing an area of approximately 4,464 hectares in Kampong Thom and Kratie Provinces within the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia.

The forest habitat in Phnom Chi remains in relatively good condition, but small-scale illegal gold extraction around its base threatens the newly discovered species. A second species of lizard, the scincid Sphenomorphus preylangensis, was also recently described from Phnom Chi by a team of researchers including Neang. These new discoveries underscore the importance of Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary for biodiversity conservation and the critical need to strengthen its management.

Further, an assessment of C. phnomchiensis is urgently warranted by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN 2020) because of its small area of occupancy, status as relatively uncommon, and ongoing threats to its habitat.

“This exciting discovery adds another reptile species to science for Cambodia and the world. It also highlights the global importance of Cambodia’s biodiversity and illustrates the need for future exploration and biological research in Prey Lang,” said Neang.

“When [Neang] first returned from fieldwork and told me that he had found a species in the C. irregularis group so far west of the Mekong River in Cambodia, I did not believe it. His discovery underscores how much unknown biodiversity remains out there in unexpected places. Clearly, Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary is important for biodiversity and deserves attention,” said Neang’s co-author Stuart of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Endangered vultures discovered in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

Red-headed vulture, female

Siem Pang wildlife sanctuary, Cambodia, 4 February 2017

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Three critically endangered red-headed vulture nests discovered in Cambodia’s Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary

January 29, 2018

Three nests of the Critically Endangered Red-headed vulture were found in January in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary by conservationists from the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and local communities. The population of this species in Cambodia is possibly less than 50 individuals. These nest discoveries give hope that conservation efforts may save this species from extinction.

Global vulture populations are declining at an alarming rate. Cambodia’s three vulture species — Red-headed (Sarcogyps calvus), Slender-billed (Gyps tenuirostris), and White-rumped (Gyps bengalensis) — are all listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Cambodia supports the largest population of vultures in Southeast Asia, but there [are] only a few hundred individuals left in the country.

As part of the Bird’s Nest Protection Program, WCS has employed six community members to protect the nests of these vultures. Local people are now incentivized to protect the Critically Endangered species until their eggs hatch and the chicks are able to leave the nest — as opposed to taking the chicks to sell.

“I am eager to protect vulture nests because I can generate income to support my family and I’m able to join in conserving this species that is now very rare”, said Soeng Sang, a Red-headed Vulture nest protector. “I have spent much of my time staying near the nest site to prevent any disturbances or harm. I am committed to saving this bird for the next generation.”

Increased levels of hunting, forest loss and land conversion, land encroachment and selective logging negatively affect the birds through loss of nesting sites and reduction in prey availability. In addition, at least 30 vultures were killed over the past five years in Cambodia due to widespread indiscriminate use of deadly poisons by villagers in and around water sources to catch birds and … small mammals, which is severely affecting the vulture population. “The Red-headed vulture is a very rare species; they are facing a high risk of extinction,” said Tan Sophan, WCS’s Vulture Project Coordinator in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary. “Besides nest protection, we also organize ‘vulture restaurants‘ to feed vultures every month.”

Vulture restaurants are sites where the birds are periodically provided supplementary feedings. This activity is a collaboration between the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery, and a consortium of NGOs, and also doubles as a tool to raise awareness of their importance to the landscape and human health.”In addition, tourists visiting the restaurant with Sam Veasna Centre have significantly contributed to saving the species and improving local livelihoods”, Sophan added.

Cambodian elephants saved from Pentagon bomb crater

The Cambodian elephants in the bomb crater, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Herd of elephants rescued from Cambodian bomb crater

Today, 16:18

A rescue team has saved a herd of elephants after four days in an old bomb crater. The endangered animals would have been killed by hunger if villagers would not have discovered them.

The eleven animals, including a youngster, got stuck when they tried to drink from the 3 meter deep crater. The pit was made many years ago [during the Vietnam war] by a United States bombing in the country.

The elephants were freed by digging a path from the pit. Meanwhile, water was also sprayed into the hole to dilute the mud. After their rescue, the animals walked back into the woods.

The rescue of 11 Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) from a mud hole inside the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia, on 24th March 2017 avoided a tragedy for wildlife conservation in Cambodia: here.

Saving birds in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

22 July 2011

Birdwatchers from across Asia and beyond flock to Cambodia‘s forests for a glimpse of two of the world’s rarest birds: the giant ibis and its cousin the white-shouldered ibis. Each year, the birders follow the birds to their nesting grounds at the outskirts of Tmatboey, a rural Cambodian village some 200 miles north of Phnom Penh. Under the protection of the Tmatboey villagers, the ibises breed, nest, and raise their chicks. In return for their contribution to the birds’ conservation, WCS worked with the community to develop an eco-tourism project. This partnership has helped bring the village a new perspective on their sacred forest.

From BirdLife:

Protected zones offer refuge for Cambodia’s endangered ibises

By Alex Dale, 2 Feb 2017

In a process that has been six years in the making, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, has approved plans to divide Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary’s 250,000 hectares of land into four different zones, with added protection for areas that are significant to globally threatened species.

It’s a move designed to ensure that the sanctuary’s most vital forest habitats are protected from illegal logging and human disturbance, while simultaneously making provisions for sustainable land use and development for local communities that depend on the protected areas’ land for their livelihood.

Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Cambodia’s largest protected areas, and is among the first to be zoned in accordance to The Law on Nature Protection. This came into effect in February 2008 and requires protected areas to be divided into four different management zoning systems:

Core Zones – areas of the park that shelter Critically Endangered species or contain fragile ecosystems; access to these zones is prohibited except for officials and researchers;
Conservation Zones – important conservation areas that lie adjacent to the Core Zones and as such act as a buffer zone, protecting the Core Zones from small-scale land encroachment;
Sustainable Use Zones – areas of high economic value where, after consultation, development and investment opportunities may be permitted;
Community Zones: reserved for local communities and may already include residential lands and paddy fields.

Under the zonation plan 42,000 hectares has been designated as a Core Zone, for the sanctuary is home to five Critically Endangered bird species; these include the Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea and the White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni, two birds that have been hit hard by the rapid reforestation and habitat fragmentation that has occurred in South-east Asia in the last few decades.

Lomphat also supports three Critically Endangered vultures; White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris and Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus in addition to several globally-threatened large mammal species, including Eid’s Deer Recervus eldi  and Banteng Bos javanicus.

These species are threatened by hunting, illegal logging and small-scale land encroachment, activities that have increased in recent years as a result of the Cambodian government allocating at least 50,000 hectares of land within the sanctuary to domestic and foreign investors in the form of Economic Land Concessions (ELCs). ELCs are a contentious issue within Cambodia, not only creating land use conflicts with local villagers, but also threatening the country’s most precious habitats. BirdLife International lead the zonation planning process together with the People Resources Conservation Foundation .

“We supported the Ministry of Environment to develop this zonation plan since 2012 with the objective of protecting the remaining core area of the sanctuary from being converted and destroyed,” says Bou Vorsak, Cambodia Programme Manager, BirdLife International. “This zonation plan will prevent new and enlarged economic land concessions. The plan also allocates areas for local communities to establish their own conservation areas and affords the right to sustainably use natural resources.”

Bird conservation in Cambodia

This 2015 video is called Birds of Cambodia. Education & Conservation.

From BirdLife:

A Phnom-enal award for our team in Cambodia

By Irene Lorenzo, 30 Nov 2016

BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme, which has saved several Critically Endangered from extinction, has received a prestigious award from the biodiverse country’s government.

Five Critically Endangered bird species protected. Ten projects supporting vital bird habitats.  Countless new protected areas declared. In thirteen years, BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme has managed to revitalize the natural landscape of this biodiverse South-East Asian country by leaps and bounds. Unsurprisingly, the Cambodian government is now awarding them a prestigious medal in recognition to their years of dedication.

The Cambodia Programme was started over a decade ago by a small group of conservationists seeking to promote habitat and species conservation by working with governments and other organizations. Today it’s lead by a team of fifty local people who work at the forefront of nature conservation in the country.

Species protection is one of the main drivers of their work, with five Critically Endangered bird species benefitting from their projects: Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea, White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni, White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris and Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus.

Habitat protection is the other main focus of the Programme, with about 10 projects supporting six Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in Cambodia. Earlier this year, the Cambodia Programme was a key player in the creation of the new transnational Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the above-named Critically Endangered bird species – including 50% of the global population of White-shouldered Ibis and 10% of the world’s Giant Ibis. Two other important wetlands for birds in the Lower Mekong, identified by BirdLife as IBAs, were officially declared protected areas thanks to the programme.

Only last year, the extraordinary waterbird colony of Prek Toal was recognized as Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, successfully disentangling 8 years of institutional conflict. Prek Toal is the largest waterbird colony in South-East Asia, but it had become a fraction of its size as a result of decades of egg and chick collecting. By involving egg collectors and employing them as nest guardians, the Programme found a solution that worked for both birds and people. The protection continues to this day and the site now supports more than 50,000 breeding waterbirds of at least ten globally threatened species, including Southeast Asia’s only breeding Spot-billed Pelicans Pelecanus philippensis, nearly half of the world’s Greater Adjutants Leptoptilos dubius and thousands of storks and darters.

The Programme team goes beyond just declaring protected areas by also helping the government develop management plans for them. This is how they ensure these areas are managed properly. Currently they support the management of four protected areas: Siem Pang Kang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary, Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary, Boeung Prek Lapouv Protected Landscape and Anlung Pring Protected Landscape.

The team is ecstatic to receive the Sahametrei medal – a prestigious award given by the Cambodian government to organizations who contribute their energy and spirit to Cambodia’s social interest. Nominated by the Ministry of Environment, the medal and a certificate signed by the Prime Minister was awarded in a ceremony in Phnom Pehn this week. It’s an award that reflects the team’s tireless work, and gives them renewed energy to continue conserving the country’s stunning natural resources.

Conservation news from Cambodia

This video from Cambodia says about itself:

3 December 2015

BirdLife International conducts numerous conservation projects in Siem Pang to protect the habitat of ibis, vulture and many other wild animals. This is a short montage of footage from our work with BirdLife in Siem Pang.

By Shaun Hurrell, 20 May 2016:

Huge protected forest jigsaw completed

The picture on the jigsaw box is of an extensive swathe of unified nature, beyond borders, of thriving wildlife and local communities across 700,000 hectares in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, together making one of the largest protected landscapes in South-East Asia.

For the last couple of years, one of the most valuable jigsaw pieces in the world was missing – a large deciduous forest called Western Siem Pang in northern Cambodia.

Now it has finally been slotted into place. Welcome to the new Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary.

In this newly protected forest you will find Endangered Eld’s Deer roaming and not one – but five – Critically Endangered bird species breeding, including 50% of the global population of White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni and 10% of the world’s Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea. You will also find a dedicated BirdLife team, skilfully covering huge distances every day on urban motorbikes unsuitable for the sandy terrain, diligently monitoring crucial forest pool habitats, or working with an enforcement team to report illegal logging and confiscate wood and wildlife. Some rangers, like Mem Mai, are ex-hunters and have an ear so well-trained that they can monitor bird song over the noise of the motorbike engine.

Ask Project Officer Eang Samnang, and he will tell you the exact location of all three Critically Endangered vulture species’ nests. Or that the vulture ‘restaurant’ they created to supplement vulture feeding (due to a decline in large wild mammals) now accounts for 73% of all of Cambodia’s vultures.

In the local villages, you will find Dina Yam, Community Outreach Officer, showing educational films to prevent wildlife poisonings, or helping people build up herds of cattle and buffalo. Lately, the Cambodia team and Forestry Administration had an economic land concession cancelled to prevent the clearance of the forest for plantations and came one step closer to ensuring protected status.

Suffice to say that the BirdLife Cambodia Programme has been working hard for years to protect Western Siem Pang. Celebrations in 2014 saw the designation of the northern half being declared a Protected Forest. But the puzzle was not completed until this week when the Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary was created covering over 65,000 hectares in the remaining southern half of the forest.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen signed the sub-decree establishing Prey Siem Pang Lech Wildlife Sanctuary on 9th May 2016, with a boundary that follows almost exactly what BirdLife proposed. Now this boundary completes the regional protected area puzzle combining forest in southern Laos, northern Cambodia and western Vietnam.

This latest sub-decree also sees the upgrade of the northern half of Western Siem Pang forest from its Protected Forest status, bringing the total area designated as Wildlife Sanctuary to 132,321 hectares.

“We delight with this decision and BirdLife’s Cambodia team will continue support Ministry of Environment to manage this wildlife sanctuary”, said Bou Vorsak, BirdLife Cambodia Programme Manager.

“This success comes from working in close collaboration with our government partners, the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection of the Ministry of Environment, and thanks to unwavering support from the MacArthur Foundation over the many years.”

“My department is proud to have initiated this protected area designation processs,” said Dr Keo Omaliss, Director of Department Wildlife and Biodiversity of Forestry Administration. “As someone who studied the Giant Ibis as part of my PhD research, I am pleased this population of this Critically Endangered species is now more secure. The Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to establishing more Protected Forest in the near future.” …

The preservation of wild places is often pitched as a battle between the interests of wildlife and the interests of people. It’s not.

It was only by understanding the value of Western Siem Pang forest for threatened birds and for local people that its future is now secure – for both.

Western Siem Pang illustrates this connection very simply. Scattered under the broad leaves of the forest, seasonal pools called trapaengs are central to the lives of people as well as wildlife. In the dry season these trapaengs all but dry up (especially if buffalo aren’t around to wallow) – but they are sources of water, frogs and fish for humans and birds alike, and also provide a wealth of non-timber forest products. Recognising this common interest, BirdLife works with local people and over a decade has established a network of Local Conservation Groups who agreed a Trapaeng Management Protocol to protect the essential pools, alongside the Ibises, Deer and other threatened wildlife like Gaur, Banteng, Clouded Leopard and Red-shanked Douc Langur.

All this shows that of course it is never as simple as slotting a jigsaw piece into place, but the hard work behind BirdLife’s Cambodia Programme certainly makes it look that way.

“The many years of perseverance have paid off at last,” said Jonathan Eames, BirdLife Cambodia.

To find out how this story evolves, and if the Giant & White-shouldered Ibis, Slender-billed, Red-headed & White-rumped Vulture populations bounce back, subscribe to our newsletter below.

This video says about itself:

Buffalo Friend, Documentary film of BirdLife International Cambodian Programme

3 October 2014

Western Siem Pang of Stung Treng province is in the North-Eastern plains of Cambodia. This site supports a number of the rare and critically endangered wildlife species of South-East Asia. At well over 700,000 hectares this landscape is one of largest protected rugged landscapes in the region.

Two critically endangered ibis species are also present at this site. The world’s largest remaining White shouldered Ibis population is found here and also the Giant Ibis, the national bird symbol of Cambodia.

Both local communities and wildlife are heavily dependent of these forests to support their existence.

Cambodian bird paradise gets protection

This video is called The birds in Tonle Sap, Cambodia.

From BirdLife:

Extraordinary waterbird colony – Prek Toal – recognised as Ramsar Site

By Vorsak Bou, Wed, 02/12/2015 – 13:34

South-East Asia’s largest waterbird colony, the 21,342 hectares Prek Toal (Ramsar Site no. 2245 ) has been designated as a Wetland of International Importance (also known as a ‘Ramsar Site’), by the Royal Government of Cambodia and recognised by the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The declaration of Cambodia’s fourth Ramsar Site was made by Prime Ministerial Sub-Decree.

Prek Toal’s Status as South-East Asia’s largest waterbird colony was under threat due to overharvesting of the waterbirds until the Ministry of Environment in close cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation Society started working back in 1999 to conserve the colony. The colony was a fraction of its current size, due to decades of egg and chick collection. Former egg collectors were employed as nest guardians, stationed on tree-top platforms throughout the breeding season to protect and monitor the breeding birds. The protection continues to this day, and Prek Toal now supports more than 50,000 breeding waterbirds of at least ten globally threatened species. These include Southeast Asia’s only breeding Spot-billed Pelicans, nearly half of the world’s Greater Adjutants and many thousands of storks and darters. It is for this reason that Prek Toal has received recognition as a Ramsar Site. Prek Toal attracts thousands of tourists annually and supports the most productive fishery in the Tonle Sap Lake.

“Cambodia should be proud that Prek Toal has been declared as a wetland of international importance. It recognises the years of hard work between government, local communities and NGOs, and opens the door to many more years of this exciting collaboration that has restored Prek Toal to its place as a natural wonder of Cambodia” said Dr. Ross Sinclair, WCS Cambodia Director.

“We congratulate the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia for putting forward Prek Toal as a new Ramsar Site”, said Dr. Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania (Ramsar Secretariat), “and we look forward to supporting the Government of Cambodia to designate more Ramsar Sites in future, and to ensure their sustainable management for the benefit of the local people and the environment.”

30% of Cambodia is covered by wetlands and the majority of them have been identified as globally important, owing to the populations of threatened species that they support. In 1999 Cambodia became a Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. However, up until now only three Ramsar Sites had been designated. They are:

•       Boeng Chhmar and Associated River System and Floodplain (Ramsar Site no. 997);

•       Koh Kapik and Associated Islets (Site no. 998), and;

•       Middle Stretches of Mekong River North of Stoeng Treng (Site no. 999).

“Recognising Prek Toal as a Ramsar Site not only draws attention to the international importance of this wetland but it will be a bridge for Cambodia to nominate more wetlands as Ramsar Sites in the future”, said H.E. Say Samal, Minister of Environment of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

BirdLife International and the Department of Freshwater Wetlands Conservation, Ministry of Environment have been working together towards designating more wetlands as Ramsar Sites in Cambodia since 2008. Prek Toal is the first new Ramsar Site declared in Cambodia in the last sixteen years. “In addition to its biodiversity value, Prek Toal Important Bird and Biodiversity Area delivers ecosystem services such as fish which support the livelihoods of the surrounding floating villages, we are delighted at this result” said Mr. Bou Vorsak, BirdLife Cambodia’s Programme Manager. “Ramsar status for this wetland will attract international interest in this fantastic site.”

Financial support was provided by the Darwin Initiative, a small grant of Japanese Ministry of the Environment, the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund, a Ramsar Small Grant, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Each Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention designates at least one wetland for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance, and these sites are selected by the Party based on the site’s international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. Worldwide, there are 2,240 Ramsar Sites, making this the largest network of wetland managed for conservation.

See BirdLife Data Zone Prek Toal Factsheet.

Endangered Mekong giant catfish caught, released in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

20 July 2009

Biologist Zeb Hogan travels the mighty Mekong River in search of the increasingly elusive Giant Catfish.


A Monster Fish Makes a Rare Appearance in Cambodia

Fishers catch and release a critically endangered Mekong giant catfish

Nov 14, 2015

by Taylor Hill

Fishers near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, brought a monster to the surface this past week—catching and releasing a rarely seen Mekong giant catfish nearly seven feet long.

It was the first reported catch this year of the freshwater monster, known as the “royal fish” because of its size.

“This is really extraordinary,” Zeb Hogan, a University of Nevada, Reno, biologist who has studied the species for almost 20 years, said in a statement. “It confirms that this incredibly rare and critically endangered freshwater species still occurs in Cambodia and it is still making its annual spawning migration out of the Tonle Sap Lake and into the Mekong River.”

Hogan was on-site when the catch was made. “At just under seven feet in length, the catfish was larger than any catfish that has been caught in the U.S. in the last 100 years,” he said. “What was really incredible is that I happened to be visiting at the time of the catch. It’s a one-in-a-million opportunity.”

Hogan and a team of officials from the Cambodian Department of Fisheries tagged the fish to track its movement and then guided it to the middle of the river for release.

RELATED: This Dam Battery Will Power Southeast Asia but at What Cost?

Hogan said he swam down with the fish some 10 feet deep, monitoring its condition along the way.

“Swimming with the fish was incredible as always,” said Hogan, who has swum with dozens of huge fish as part of his research. “This particular fish was in better shape, not as injured than most, so that makes me optimistic it will survive.”

Mekong catfish were once caught by the thousands in the lower Mekong, but scientists estimate the total population of the species has decreased by around 90 percent in the last decade and could be down to a few 100 individuals.

“The survival of every fish makes a difference; survival of migrating adults is especially important,” Hogan said. “With ongoing changes happening on the Mekong River that may cause the extinction of the giant catfish, measures to study and protect these fish are more important than ever.”

A perfect example is provided by a tiny, finger-length blood-sucking catfish that has just been found by Pinna and his colleagues in the Amazon. The discovery is to be screened as part of BBC1’s Amazon Abyss series this week and will give television viewers a unique opportunity to become involved in ecological issues – by allowing them to vote for a name for the tiny aquatic vampire: here.

Endangered fishing cat discovery in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

2 September 2015

Pictures of the Endangered fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) – the first in Cambodia for more than a decade – provide welcome evidence that these elusive felines still survive in some parts of the country.

From Wildlife Extra:

Fishing cat found in coastal Cambodia for first time in 12 years

Camera traps have captured footage and images of the endangered fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) in Cambodia for the first time since 2003.

Researchers from the CBC, a partnership between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh, were thrilled by the findings which have allayed grave fears about the status of these animals in Cambodia.

FFI project leader, Ms Ret Thaung said that the fishing cat’s preference for wetland habitat had led to severe population declines throughout much of its Asian range.

Asian wetland habitats are rapidly disappearing or being modified by human activity, so fishing cat numbers have declined dramatically over the last decade and the remaining population is thought to be small,” she said.

“Fishing cats are believed to be extinct in Vietnam, while there are no confirmed records in Lao PDR and only scarce information about the species in Thailand and Cambodia.

“It is clear that urgent steps are needed to protect these cats from snaring and trapping and to conserve their wetland habitats – but to do this effectively we needed to get a better idea of where they live.”

The team discovered fishing cats at two sites in south-west Cambodia: Peam Krosaop Wildlife Sanctuary (Koh Kong Province) and Ream National Park (Sihanoukville Province).

“This is a remarkable discovery as fishing cats are very vulnerable to human persecution,” Ms Thaung said. “We are especially pleased to see both a male and female cat from Peam Krosaop Wildlife Sanctuary. When working with Endangered species, every animal is important and the excitement of such a discovery is overwhelming.”

As both of these sites are protected areas, the resident fishing cats should be afforded some protection.

Alongside the fishing cats, the cameras also recorded a variety of other threatened species including the Critically Endangered Sunda pangolin, the Endangered hog deer, and the Vulnerable smooth-coated otter, large-spotted civet and sambar deer.