Tonle Sap Lake
This is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, also known as the “Great Lake” which doubles in size with the monsoon rains each year. As the lake floods, huge schools of fish thrive, providing food for millions of Cambodians. To maximize the fishing opportunities, some families live in floating villages composed of rustic, often handmade houseboats miles from the vast lake’s shores.
Anlung Reang floating village on Tonle Sap Lake. (© Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg)
Kristin and Jeremy spent two days visiting CI’s research station located in a floating village of a few dozen families. Traveling by longboat, they photographed fishermen, toured communities and tagged along with local researchers and collected data on the behaviors of endangered river otters. At night they slept in the open air meeting room of the CI station, where they watched the sun rise over the still, quiet lake, a serene and beautiful sight, they write.
Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area
Northern buff-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus annamensis),found in the jungles of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and southern China, face increasing threats from humans, including loss of habitat due to extensive deforestation. There are only few left in the world, and CI is working hard to protect them. In the Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area in northeastern Cambodia, Kristin and Jeremy joined CI researchers on their pre-dawn trek into the forest, where they heard a northern buffed-cheek gibbon duet — eerie and mournful. They spent a morning following five of these graceful apes, in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Mekong Turtle Conservation Center
Near Kratie, CI works with communities to protect the endangered Cantor’s giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii). Young turtles are allowed to grow safely in CI’s newly-built Mekong Turtle Conservation Center, located on the grounds of Wat Sorsor Mouy Roy, a famous Buddhist temple. The temple’s monks work at the center and educate the community, as Buddhist philosophy encourages environmental conservation.
A local boy holding a young Cantor's giant softshell turtle, Mekong Turtle Conservation Center, Cambodia. (© Kristin Harrison & Jeremy Ginsberg).
Kristine and Jeremy photographed softshell turtles which are bizarre looking: shells are wafer thin around the edges, and soft on the top and bottom. Adults can grow to 6 feet [1.8 meters] in diameter, weigh up to 110 pounds (50 kilograms) and have a ferocious, bone-crushing bite. They joined CI staff, monks and villagers on the banks of the Mekong River to learn how turtles are released back into the wild.