Two gaurs have been spotted in the Prey Lang area in Preah Vihear province, grazing amongst the cattle of local villagers. Officials have called for the protection of these two specimens. The gaur, Bos gaurus, also known as the Indian bison, is the world’s largest surviving wild bovid.
On January 13, ranger officials in the Prey Lang area in Preah Vihear province reported seeing a female gaur and her calf. The pair were also seen the previous July, in Thmea commune’s Srae Veal village of Preah Vihear province’s Chey Sen district.
Srey They, a member of the he Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) said on January 23 that his community had spotted the gaurs, near Srae Veal village.
He added that the two animals had spent the past few days foraging with the villager’s cattle. They appeared comfortable with the domestic animals, and he suggested that they would be safe from snares and hunters if they remained with the herd.
“Every day, they stay in the rice fields with the cattle. The two animals seem to treat the cattle like their shelter. We used to see them occasionally in the cashew plantation, but now they are happy in the rice fields. I saw them yesterday,” he said.
He claimed that community members were previously wary of approaching the animals, as they have a fierce reputation. In the past, they had always fled into the forest when they saw people, but it seemed like they had somehow become accustomed to human activity.
“Not once since I was born have I seen these animals behaving like this. Previously, they ran as soon as they saw us and would not even approach domesticated animals – I suppose because they could smell humans on them. Now, we see them in the rice fields most days, and all of the villagers have come to see them,” he added.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on January 23 that this was not the first time the two gaurs were spotted, and that they appeared to have adapted themselves to live alongside cattle for some time.
He added that it was clear that wild and domestic animals could adapt to each other as long as there was sufficient food for both.
“We, and the villagers, must participate in the care and conservation of these precious wild animals. We must not hunt them or startle them. If they are comfortable foraging alongside the cattle, then we should continue to let them do so. I urge the villagers to do whatever it takes to protect them,” he continued.
He said specialists estimated the global wild gaur population at between 15,000 and 35,000, with 6,000 to 21,000 of them adults.
He added that studies had determined that the number of gaurs had dropped by over 80 per cent in the last decade, and by 90 per cent since the mid-20th century.
“Gaurs are present in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam, but have gone extinct in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. No clear data is available on the Cambodian population, but they are present in several protected areas,” he said.
The Ministry of Environment claimed that it will continue to cooperate with partner organisations to protect and conserve Cambodia’s natural resources.
It appealed to the public to join it in conserving the Kingdom’s unique wildlife and discontinue the consumption of bushmeat, so that future generations would have the opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures.