From dense rainforests, to expansive flatlands and untouched coastlines, Cambodia has a rich and varied natural landscape. More than half of the Southeast Asian country remains covered in rich forest and jungle, making it home to a vast array of rare species. These include some of the world’s most dangerous animals, such as crocodiles, venomous snakes, and bears. If you’re wondering what to expect from Cambodian wildlife, we’ve pulled together a list of the 7 most dangerous animals in Cambodia.
Before we get started, it’s worth noting one important fact: there’s no animal in Cambodia more deadly than humans ourselves. Siamese crocodiles may be gruesome, and leopards ferocious, but even the most dangerous of animals are no match for human activities such as deforestation and poaching. As many of Cambodia’s native species near extinction, it’s worth remembering that the country’s animals need more protection from us than we do from them.
So, what are the species we should be mindful of? From reptiles to land mammals, read on for a breakdown of Cambodia’s deadliest animals.
The Blue Krait, otherwise known as a Malayan Krait, is a highly venomous snake. It is one of the most dangerous species of animal in Cambodia. Blue Kraits hail from the Elapidae family of venomous snakes, which are recognisable by their permanently erect fangs at the front of the mouth. Their fangs and their thick black and white bands make them distinctive. They are active at night, and usually found around rice paddies and bamboo groves.
Blue Kraits’ venom ranks third in the world for deadliness. It has a neurotoxic effect, shutting down the human body’s nervous system and often resulting in respiratory failure. Even after medical treatment, Krait bites have a mortality rate of 60-70% in humans. The good news? Blue Kraits are rather shy, meaning they won’t bite unless provoked. When camping in the Cambodian countryside, be sure to thoroughly check the campsite, as Kraits have been known to curl up in tents and sleeping bags.
Cambodia is home to one of the last remaining wild populations of Siamese Crocodiles. These medium-sized, freshwater crocodiles are typically found along The Mekong River basin and wetlands, and in the Cardamom mountains. They are one of the most dangerous animals in Cambodia. Due to hunting and habitat loss, Siamese Crocodiles were actually thought to be extinct until a team of scientists rediscovered the species in Cambodia in 2000. Nowadays, it’s estimated that just 250 adults remain. However, the discovery of a wild nest of 22 eggs in 2020 brought some hope for the species.
While crocodiles are notoriously deadly, Siamese crocodiles are not typically aggressive to humans. Nonetheless, at up to 4 meters long and 350kg, they could certainly do some damage. You’re extremely unlikely to come across a Siamese crocodile on your travels. They are, after all, one of the world’s most endangered reptiles in the wild. If you want to get closer to these animals in a safer way, the area of Veal Veaeng near Phnum Samkoh Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for crocs, with breeding populations thriving in recent years.
The Indochinese leopard is a leopard species native to Southeast Asia. While they once roamed numerous countries in Southeast Asia, nowadays their presence in the region is largely limited to Cambodia. In fact, research suggests that a small group of indochinese leopards in Cambodia is the last remaining population in all of Eastern Indochina. The density of the leopards in the area reduced by 72% in the 5 years leading up to 2018. This dramatic decline is largely owing to poaching and habitat loss due to deforestation.
While beautiful, majestic creatures, leopards are one of the most dangerous animals in Cambodia. They are stealthily fast, strong, and have impressive climbing abilities. As advanced hunters, leopards usually prey on dogs, pigs, banteng and domestic livestock. Generally, leopards pose little risk to humans. Upon spotting a human, they are likely to run away. If provoked, however, leopards are likely to attack. Much like the Siamese crocodile, you are unlikely to see a leopard in the wild in Cambodia. However, the Phnom Tamao Rescue Centre is home to a range of native animals, rescued from illegal trade – this sometimes includes leopards.
Thai Zebra Tarantula
The Thai Zebra Tarantulas is a species from the Theraphosidae family. They are commonly found in Myanmar and Thailand, as well as in Cambodia. The spider’s black body and contrasting white stripes have earned it its Zebra nickname. Like most Asian tarantulas, the Thai Zebra tarantula is very defensive and aggressive. They possess a painful bite, with more potent venom than most tarantula species.
It may come as a surprise to hear that this aggressive breed of tarantula is known by another name: the edible tarantula. Street food vendors across the country sell Thai Zebra Tarantulas as snacks, often deep fried and rolled in garlic or sugar. Known for high protein, folic acid and zinc contents, the spiders sustained Cambodians in times of food scarcity. Nowadays, these tarantulas are a delicacy in Cambodia. Tarantulas may not have been front of mind when you imagine Cambodian cuisine, but why not try one? It could surprise you!
According to estimates, there are currently between 400 and 600 wild elephants in Cambodia. The main concentration are found in the Cardamom Mountains in south-western Cambodia, and the eastern plains of Mondulkiri Province. While people generally regard these animals as lovable giants, elephants can be extremely dangerous. Indeed, they are among the most dangerous animals in Cambodia. As Asia’s largest land mammal, they are certainly an intimidating sight. It’s estimated that globally, elephants kill as many as 500 people per year, while their size and strength can lay waste to entire villages.
However, 500 people is very little compared to the quantity of elephants killed at the hands of humans every year. The illegal wildlife trade is a major threat to elephants globally, and Cambodia is no exception. Markets and shops in the country’s major cities openly sell Elephant Ivory. In response to this harrowing practice, conservationists have set up a number of initiatives to protect this endangered species. For example, the Elephant Valley Project, in Mondulkiri is the largest captive elephant sanctuary in Asia. It comprises 1,500 hectares of forest, rivers, grassland, and bamboo groves. It’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in learning more about this majestic species.
Cambodia is home to the smallest and rarest of all bear species in the world: the sun bear. The sun bear’s name is derived from the orange crescent of fur on its chest. They have also earned the name honey bears due to their extreme fondness of honey. They may sound endearing, but these pint-sized specimens are amongst the most dangerous animals in Cambodia.
In the wild, sun bears sometimes exhibit aggressive behavior and attack without cause. With strong jaws and sharp claws, you wouldn’t want to stumble upon one of these bears in your travels. However, their status as endangered species means that it’s very unlikely that you will. If you’re after a sighting, supposedly sun bears can be found in a few protected areas in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces of Cambodia.
Snakes are far and away the most common of dangerous animals in Cambodia. The King Cobra is one of the most deadly. The King Cobra is the longest species of venomous snake. They average at 13 feet long, but can grow as large as 18 feet. When defensive, these colossal snakes can lift a third of their bodies off the ground and look a full-grown human in the eye. If that didn’t make you shudder enough, King Cobras have some of the most powerful neurotoxic venom around. They can deliver enough neurotoxin in a single bite to kill 20 people, or an elephant. Their venom works by attacking venomous centers in the brain, resulting in respiratory and cardiac failure.
Fortunately, King Cobras typically avoid confrontation with humans. They feed mainly on other species of snake, as well as lizards and small mammals. King Cobras populate a variety of habitats within Cambodia. Be extra cautious in forests, bamboo thickets, mangrove swamps and near rivers.
Is all this talk of snakes, crocodiles and tarantulas putting you off Cambodia? Don’t be. Check out our list of 8 reasons why you should visit Cambodia.
Does Cambodia have venomous snakes?
Cambodia is home to 17 different types of venomous snakes. The country’s tropical climate and varied landscapes create the conditions for hundreds of different varieties of snake species to thrive. Venomous snakes living in Cambodia range from the fairly innocuous Malayan Pit Viper, to the infamous King Cobra – one of the world’s most deadly snakes. Usually, snakes tend to be more afraid of humans than we are of them. Upon feeling the vibrations of someone approaching, they tend to slither away. While snakesbites are common amongst those who work around snake habitats, such as fishermen and farmers, tourists can avoid snakebites by following local guidance.
Are there tigers in Cambodia?
Tigers do not exist in the wild in Cambodia. This wasn’t always the case. Historically, Cambodia’s forests were home to streaks of indochinese tigers, a species native to the Southeast Asian countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Due to intense poaching and habitat destruction, tigers and their prey disappeared from the country. The last known sighting of a tiger in the wild was in 2007. However, the Cambodian government is working with World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) to reintroduce tigers into the country. Their goal is to double the number of tigers that live in the wild in Cambodia by 2022.
What is the most dangerous animal in Cambodia?
The King Cobra is by far and away the most dangerous animal in Cambodia. With the ability to kill 20 people – or an entire elephant – in just one bite, the strength of its venom is unrivalled. The potency of the King Cobra’s neurotoxic venom can kill in just 30 minutes. However, as we’ve noted above, King Cobras are not inherently aggressive animals. More often, snakes slink away when approached, rather than attacking. Typically, these snakes are most dangerous when defending their nest, or unexpectedly disturbed. It’s also worth remembering that King Cobras are endangered themselves. Loss of habitat and extensive poaching have caused dramatic decreases in the population of King Cobra. They have officially been considered vulnerable since 2010.