Every market in the major cities here offers baggy pants made from a cotton with elephant prints. They look very comfy but also make each tourist stand out since the locals don’t wear these pants. Elephants are depicted on bags and shirts and skirts and pillows. There are life size stone elephants at the entrances to temples. But no more wild elephants. In fact we have only seen one or two working elephants.
Tigers, too, and even rhinos we’re told, used to roam the jungles but no longer. We see plenty of dusty dogs sleeping along the roads and in the shade of roadside stands. Very skinny cows graze here and there in grassy fields. Apparently they are kept for milk and beef although we don’t see much meat on them. They are also kept for pulling wagons as are water buffalo. If someone owns a moto – a long handled motor that pulls a flat wagon – they can switch the wheel to blades that plow the fields. The wagon can also be pulled by the water buffalo.
We hear and see a fair number of birds, including white egrets. And lots of monkeys hang around temples and in the jungle.
There seem to be plenty of fish in rivers and lakes to provide food and livelihoods. But it seems to us that a huge threat here to all wildlife is the unimaginable amount of plastic waste. Fields and roadsides are covered in plastic bags, plastic bottles, straws and pieces of styrofoam. The litter is found in the jungle and along all city streets. The river banks, the fields outside the towns, everything is a vast wasteland of plastic, at least near populated areas. As we travel north where there is less development, there is also less garbage. Here and there we see large bales of plastic and pop cans collected. We are told these are hauled to Vietnam for processing because Cambodia does not yet have the equipment to recycle. Unless they educate people about the harmful effects of this plastic waste, both wildlife and tourism might suffer.
We have visited remote villages where lots of pigs run underfoot – fat mammas followed by a whole slew of piglets.
Today we saw some pretty large spiders in the jungle and several geckos, one of which was molting. I didn’t know geckos molt like snakes. I have a pretty funny story to tell you: we walked out of our room in a courtyard hotel. Very close by there were loud, strange sounds – a cross between a barking dog or a honking duck, with the rhythm of a cat coughing up a hairball. It echoed and sounded alarming so I asked the girl at the desk what in the world that sound was. She waved nonchalantly, saying “Oh, just a spider.”
“Holy #$@%, a spider?! How big is it?”
She shrugged and spread her fingers, “Maybe the size of my hand. It weighs a kilo.”
I contemplated not leaving my room for the remainder of our stay. I knew Australia has killer spiders but now Cambodia too, apparently.
Then the girl scratch her head and added, “Oh, maybe not spider, maybe called gecko in English.”
My breath slowly returned. Geckos I can handle. Even if they bark like a duck/dog.