New population of giant muntjac discovered in Virachey Park, Cambodia

April 28, 2022

Camera traps consistently provide fascinating insights into wildlife, including identifying species never before recorded in an area. Of the 12 species of muntjac deer found across Asia, the giant muntjac is one of the rarest, and is considered critically endangered by the IUCN. A new WildCRU study has documented a previously unknown population of giant muntjac in Virachey National Park (VNP), Cambodia.

Chanratana Pin, a 2020 WildCRU diploma student, and Jan Kamler, a WildCRU research associate, carried out camera trap surveys in VNP between March and May 2020. These surveys were designed to help our researchers understand the abundance and distribution of clouded leopard and other globally threatened mammal species. Camera traps were placed in some of the most remote areas of the park; to transport equipment and food, the field teams travelled first by motorbike then on foot for weeks at a time, setting out the camera trap grid.

The survey produced over 6,000 days of camera trap records, and documented over 25 species of mammals and birds. The cameras recorded 5 individual clouded leopards, 5 groups of endangered dholes, and 10 near-threatened Asiatic golden cats. Unexpectedly, the camera trap survey also recorded the critically endangered giant muntjac, a species which was discovered and described by science only 30 years ago. Giant muntjacs have never before been documented in Cambodia, with previous records suggesting their populations are restricted to Laos and Vietnam. Indeed, only one individual was recorded in this most recent survey, suggesting they are exceedingly rare in the area.

Our results suggest that VNP is an important area for many globally threatened species, including the giant muntjac and clouded leopard. Increased law enforcement and transboundary collaboration with Laos and Vietnam are important steps to protect this important, newly discovered population of rare giant muntjac.