2006 Expedition to Cambodia
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In May 2006, Eric Sargis, Associate Curator of Mammalogy in the Yale Peabody Museum’s Division of Vertebrate Zoology, co-directed a crew that spent 4 weeks collecting northern smooth-tailed treeshrews (Dendrogale murina) and other small mammals in the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area in the Mondulkiri Province of Cambodia.

The team worked roughly 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) west of the Vietnam border on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The area east of the Mekong River is biogeographically significant because the river is a major barrier that prevents the dispersal of small mammals. Many species that inhabit one side of the river are absent on the other side, and those on both sides are often genetically distinct.

Visit Eric Sargis' Mammalian Evolutionary Morphology Lab website.

This expedition was funded by the National Geographic Society and the University of Alaska Museum, and supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

 

Photo credit: Google Earth

During their stay, team members lived in an old logging camp now occupied by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Cambodian Forestry Administration. The team lived in the building on the far right and used the porch as an outdoor lab to prepare and dry collected specimens.

 

Photo credit: © 2006 Eric J. Sargis. All rights reserved.

Eric Sargis and Orn Samart, one of the team’s Cambodian field assistants, cross a stream on their way to the forest to set 3 trap lines, each with 50 traps. The team passed through a Cambodian farm twice a day, early in the morning and late in the afternoon, to check the traps.

 

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

The team worked in a dense bamboo forest inhabited by fauna that included tigers, gibbons, monkeys, elephants and small mammals like treeshrews, rodents and bats. Here Eric Sargis checks a snap trap; he is standing in a crater created by the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

In addition to snap traps, the team also used Sherman traps and Tomahawk traps, like the one shown here. The traps were usually baited with a mixture of peanut butter and dry oats, but the team also used other foods like bananas, fish and insects. Traps were either tied to branches or camouflaged on the ground.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

Among the rodents trapped were squirrels, mice and rats, like the one shown here.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

During the team’s expedition, the Cambodian Forestry Administration confiscated several live animals from poachers attempting to cross back into Vietnam. Here Edward Pollard and Chea Chen of the Wildlife Conservation Society prepare to release a recently confiscated and endangered Elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) back into the wild.

Photo credit: © 2006 Eric J. Sargis. All rights reserved.

The Cambodian Forestry Administration also confiscated this rare pangolin (Manis javanica). Protected by their scaly armor, pangolins curl up into tight balls when frightened. They use their powerful tails to hang from tree branches and their long, sharp claws to burrow into ant and termite mounds. Pangolins are the target of poachers because their scales are believed to have many medicinal benefits and their meat is considered a delicacy in parts of Asia.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

Link Olson, Curator of Mammals at the University of Alaska Museum, prepares to analyze a specimen. He will prepare the skin, skull and skeleton and collect tissues for later genetic analyses.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

The expedition’s focus was this extremely rare northern smooth-tailed treeshrew (Dendrogale murina). Before this field trip, there was only one skeleton of this species in any natural history museum around the world. This may be the only published photograph of this understudied animal.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

In addition to collecting specimens, the team studied the behavior of the northern smooth-tailed treeshrews (Dendrogale murina). Here, Link Olson is attempting to videotape this species, while Edward Pollard observes it with his binoculars.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

At the end of the expedition, co-directors Eric Sargis and Link Olson display the collected specimens to Orn Samart and Khiev Rhitiphorn, SBCP Deputy Director of the Cambodian Forestry Administration at Seima. Specimens collected during the trip were deposited at the University of Alaska Museum. Some Cambodian specimens will eventually be shipped to the Yale Peabody Museum.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.

Field assistant and photographer Jonathan Fiely, an undergraduate at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks, captured many of the highlights of the trip, including this view of the sunset from camp.

Photo credit: © 2006 Jonathan L. Fiely. All rights reserved.