Searching For the Last Kouprey
The Kouprey (Bos sauveli) is an enigmatic ox endemic to Southeast Asia, listed as Critically Endangered, Possibly Extinct on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Kouprey is a national treasure in Cambodia, yet has been dubbed a “living fossil” since very few people have been fortunate enough to see this mysterious species. Kouprey were first identified as a new species in 1937, based on a calf brought to the Vincennes Zoo in Paris, mistakenly identified as a Banteng when it was captured in Cambodia. Unfortunately, during World War II, the zoo was neglected, and the first chance to study this fascinating animal was shattered. However, the discovery of this new sparked further interest and exploration in Southeast Asia. Scientists believe this animal’s geographic range once spanned parts of Cambodia, Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Thailand. However, the last documented Kouprey sighting was in 1957 in the Northern Plains of Cambodia, by American zoologist Charles Wharton. This expedition captured the first and last known video footage of Kouprey in the wild (see the video here). Over the last few decades, hope for the survival of this species has rapidly waned. Currently, Kouprey are Critically Endangered – Possibly Extinct, and will certainly go extinct in the near future unless effective action is taken immediately.
Any Kouprey that remain are likely to be in Cambodia, and are seriously threatened by hunters and the trade in wildlife parts. The species is also at risk from disease and the demographic and genetic problems associated with small populations. There are currently no Kouprey in captivity. Although there is widespread concern that Kouprey may already be extinct, the inaccessibility of the area and lack of surveys help hold some hope for its survival.