If you are travelling to Cambodia to experience the diversity of the wildlife, it is important to bear in mind that not all of Cambodia’s large mammals live on land.
Around 150kms north of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, near the small town of Kratie, can be found the home of the rare Irrawaddy freshwater dolphin – an oceanic creature that can live in freshwater and is among the world’s most endangered mammals.
These small, snub-nosed dolphins were once plentiful, but now possibly only 100 remain. Although Cambodian fishermen have long respected, even worshipped, the dolphins, the Khmer Rouge regime took its toll – animals were killed to make lamp oil, and for meat. Since 1997, an active educational campaign, supplemented by the opening of an educational centre in Kratie in 2001has seen numbers grow again.
Since the opening of a dolphin “viewing park” north of the crumbling colonial town in 1999, it is possible to take a small wooden boat into the murky waters of the Mekong, where patience and silence will be rewarded by a few glimpses of these shy creatures as they surface to draw breath.