Cardamom Mountains

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Not to be confused with Cardamom Hills in Tamil Nadu, India. For other uses, see Cardamom (disambiguation).
Cardamom Mountains
Koh Kong logging.JPG
Aerial view of an illegal logging camp in the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong Province
Highest point
Peak Phnom Aural
Elevation 1,813 m (5,948 ft)
Dimensions
Length 300 km (190 mi) NW/SE
Width 70 km (43 mi) NE/SW
Geography
Country Cambodia
Range coordinates 12°15′N 103°00′E / 12.25°N 103°E / 12.25; 103Coordinates: 12°15′N 103°00′E / 12.25°N 103°E / 12.25; 103
Geology
Period Cambrian[1]
Type of rock Metaconglomerate

The Krâvanh Mountains, literally the "Cardamom Mountains" (Khmer: ជួរភ្នំក្រវាញ, Chuor Phnom Krâvanh; Thai: ทิวเขาบรรทัด, Thio Khao Banthat, Thai pronunciation: [tʰiw kʰǎw ban.tʰát]), is a mountain range in the south west of Cambodia and Eastern Thailand.

The silhouette of the Cardamom Mountains appears in the provincial seal of Trat Province in Thailand.[2]

Location and description[edit]

The mountain range extends along a southeast-northwest axis from Koh Kong Province on the Gulf of Thailand to the Veal Veang District in Pursat Province, and is extended to the southeast by the Dâmrei (Elephant) Mountains).[3] The highest elevation of the Cardamom Mountains is Phnom Aural at 1,813 metres (5,948 ft) high. This is also Cambodia's highest peak. The northwestern end in Chanthaburi Province, Thailand, appears also as the 'Soi Dao Mountains' (Khao Soi Dao) and as 'Chanthaburi Range' in some maps.

Dense tropical rain forest prevails on the wet western slopes which annually receive from 150 to 200 inches (3,800–5,000 mm) of rainfall. By contrast only 40 to 60 inches (1,000 to 1,500 mm) fall in places like Kirirom National Park on the wooded eastern slopes in the rain shadow facing the interior Cambodian plain. On the eastern slopes cardamom and pepper are still grown commercially.

History[edit]

The mountains contain many 15th- to 17th-century sites containing 60 cm exotic ceramic jars and rough-hewn log coffins set out on remote, natural rock ledges, which are scattered around the mountains[4] The jar burials are a unique feature of the mountain, and are a previously unrecorded burial practice in Khmer cultural history. Local legends suggest the bones are the remains of Cambodian royalty.

The largely inaccessible range formed one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge, driven out by Vietnamese forces during the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. The Thai border to the west acted as a conduit for Chinese support and, eventually, a sanctuary for fleeing Khmer fighters and refugees.[5] The inaccessibility of the hills also helped to preserve the area.

Tourism is relatively new to the Cardamom Mountains. In 2008, Wildlife Alliance launched a community-based ecotourism program in the village of Chi-Phat, marketed as the "gateway to the Cardamoms".[6] However the number of international visitors remains very small in comparison to the tourism development of Siem Reap (home to Angkor Wat) or Phnom Penh. Among the international conservation organizations working in the area are Wildlife Alliance,[7] Conservation International,[8] Fauna and Flora International[9] and WWF.[10]

Ecology[edit]

These relatively isolated mountains now form an important tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion, the Cardamom Mountains Moist Forests Ecoregion.[10] One of the largest and still mostly unexplored forests in southeast Asia, it is separated from other rainforests in the region by the large Khorat Plateau to the north. The Vietnamese Phú Quốc island off the coast of Thailand has similar vegetation and is included in the ecoregion.[10]

Most of the region is covered in evergreen rain forest with a different type of thick evergreens above 700m and areas of dwarf conifer Dacrydium elatum forest on the southern slopes of the Elephant Mountains and an area of Tenasserim Pine dominated forest on the Kirirom plateau. Hopea pierrei, an endangered canopy tree rare elsewhere, is relatively abundant in the Cardamom Mountains. Other angiosperm tree species are Anisoptera costata, Anisoptera glabra, Dipterocarpus costatus, Hopea odorata, Shorea hypochra, Caryota urens and Oncosperma tigillarium.[11] Other conifers include Pinus kesiya, Dacrycarpus imbricatus, Podocarpus neriifolius, P. pilgeri and Nageia wallichiana.[12]

Fauna[edit]

The moist climate and undisturbed nature of the rocky mountainsides appears to have allowed a rich variety of wildlife to thrive, although the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains are poorly researched and the wildlife that is assumed to be here remains to be catalogued. They are thought to be home to over 100 mammals such as the Large Indian Civet and Banteng cattle, and most importantly the mountains are thought to shelter at least 62 globally threatened animal species and 17 globally threatened trees, many of them endemic to Cambodia.[13] Among the animals are fourteen endangered and threatened mammal species, including the largest population of Asian elephant in Cambodia and possibly the whole of Indochina although this still needs proving by research. Other mammals, many of which are threatened, include Indochinese Tiger, Clouded Leopard (Pardofelis nebulosa), Dhole (a wild dog) (Cuon alpinus), Gaur (Bos gaurus), Banteng (Bos javanicus), the disputed Kting Voar (Pseudonovibos spiralis), Malayan Sun Bear, Pileated Gibbon (Hylobates pileatus), Sumatran Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis), Sunda Pangolin and the Tenasserim White-bellied Rat.[14] There are at least 34 species of amphibians, three of them described as new species to science from here.[15]

The rivers are home to both Irrawaddy and humpback dolphins and are home to some of the last populations on earth of the very rare Siamese crocodiles and the only nearly extinct batagur baska, or Royal turtle remaining in Cambodia. While the forests are habitat for more than 450 bird species, half of Cambodia’s total of which four, the Chestnut-headed Partridge, Lewis's Silver Pheasant (Lophura nycthemera lewisi), the Cardamom Peafowl (Pavo bokorensis) and the Siamese Partridge (Arborophila diversa) are endemic to these mountains. A reptile and amphibian survey led in June 2007 by Dr Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in Riverside, California, US and the conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International uncovered new species, such as a new Cnemaspis gecko, C. neangthyi.[13][16]

Protected areas[edit]

The human population of the Cardamom Mountain Range although very small is extremely poor. Threats to the biological diversity of the region include habitat loss due to illegal logging, wildlife poaching, and forest fires caused by slash-and-burn agriculture. While the Cambodian forests are fairly intact, the section in Thailand has been badly affected.

About a third of the ecoregion has been designated as protected areas,[17] but the level of active protection in all parks in the mountains has been criticised.

Cambodia[edit]

Thailand[edit]

Tourism[edit]

The Cardamom Mountains are an emerging tourist destination, with the opening of Wildlife Alliance's Chi-Phat eco-tourism area in the southern Cardamoms in 2007. Activities range from mountain biking and trekking to boat cruises and bird watching.

Wildlife Alliance have also announced the opening, in February 2011, of a second Cardamon Mountains eco-tourism site in nearby Trapeang Roung, roughly 1 hour's drive from Koh Kong. Also the newbie WAR Adventures Cambodia www.wildanimalsrescue.com organize a wide range of deep jungle activities from the family trekking to the hardcore RAID adventure, jungle orientation and survival training course, even animals and human tracking course—all of this in the region of Sre Ambel in the south-west of the Cardamom mountains.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]