After Kampong Cham, I continue the road along the river and end up a bit more north – or actually 7 hours driving for less than 200 km more north (?!) – But the most beautiful things in life often are reached by the toughest road, so here I am at the beautiful village of Kratie.
Kratie does not only show the resilience of people living along the Mekong, it shows the resilience of animals living in the Mekong as well. Moreover, it shows how these river animals were able to survive the treat of us human beings.
I’m talking about the river dolphins of the Mekong, the Irrawaddy dolphins, a threatened species. Many NGOs, with WWF among others, are proud to tell that the local population finally is on the rise again. There are now 92 dolphins in the Cambodian Mekong, up from the around 70 a couple of years ago. Which is good to hear, for sure, but nothing compared to the thousands they were once.
With ‘once’, I mean before human beings got involved. Before the Khmer Rouge decided to hunt these dolphins down for their oil – which was used as an energy source to burn lamps – and before people cached too much fish, the actual food of these dolphins.
Sharing is caring, they say, well, apparently human beings did not care too much about the animals who they should have shared their food with. In addition, sometimes the fishing men would catch a dolphin in their nets when looking for other fish, resulting in the death of this precious species.
Sharing is Caring
However, without judging, because situations might have been what they were because of factors we don’t entirely know. Nowadays a fishing policy among other protective measures, makes that the dolphins get part of their food back, a crucial factor in their survival.
Additionally, there are now less motorised boats along them, replaced by soundless boats such as kayaks. Dolphins are very sound sensitive, hence the exposure to extreme loud sounds can be traumatic for them, influencing their health and reproduction patterns among other behaviour. Imagine the impact of the bombing during the various wars before the Khmer Rouge took power?
So, today when kayaking or even sitting next to the Mekong river, up to the north of Kratie – in Kampi – you can see the dolphins swimming by, happily ever after (1).
- Unfortunately, I have to make a footnote about the dam which is planned and discussed to be constructed in Sambor, slightly up from Kampi. The production of hydro-electric energy might be a good thing at first glance, but the impact on the Mekong river, not to mention on the dolphins, might be devastating. At the moment the plan is under discussion, not under construction yet, and another proposal was made, opting for solar energy rather than hydro-energy, however rejected. So, let’s keep an eye on this story in the hope I can write a real ‘Happily ever after’. To be continued … [I will later on write a larger post on the impact of dams on the Mekong, because this is just the beginning]