Rising across remote stretches of southeast Cambodia, the Cardamom Mountains harbor dense tropical rainforest, much of it native growth carpeting the range’s wet slopes. Due to its remoteness, the vast protected area has historically seen relatively little human activity, which helped safeguard crucial tracts of wilderness and protected hundreds of rare species. However, the Cardamoms’ status as a vital haven for wildlife is increasingly coming under threat from deforestation, land grabs, and infrastructure projects, and satellite data show an uptick in forest loss across the region in 2020 – including in protected areas. Sources say this increased clearance may be spurred by government-encouraged land grabs aimed at increasing voter confidence in the current administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of national elections in 2022. The Stung Proat river winds through the Cardamom Mountains. Image by Andyb3947 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0). Unique habitat under threat The Cardamoms’ tropical broadleaf forest – some of the least explored in Southeast Asia – forms a refuge both for animals and endangered tree species. Conifers (particularly dacrydium elatum), tenasserim pine (pinus latteri), birch species (betula alnoide) and hopea pierrei – a dipterocarp canopy tree that’s rare elsewhere yet features widely here – all grow here. The region is also a vital haven for rare animal species. Pablo Sinovas, Flagship Species Manager for international conservation NGO Fauna & Flora International (FFI), an organization that works in the area, says the Cardamom Mountains “support around half of Cambodia’s known bird, reptile and amphibian species, and…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer