The Mekong River dolphin or Irrawadi dolphin, also known as Occelo Brevirostrial, is one of the mammals in the Cetacen family. The Irrawadi is an endangered species—only between 40 and 50 are known to exist in Cambodia. They can be found in the deep parts of the Mekong River in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces. In addition, between 15 and 20 of the dolphins are known to inhabit the deep parts of the Tonle Mok, near Konsaom Bat village, about 15 kilometers north of Kratie provincial town.
The Mekong River dolphin grows up to 2.8 meters in length. They can live 20-30 years. The female dolphin produces only baby every two years. Dolphins have brains that are larger and more complex that the human brain. They navigate the water using sonar and are believed to be very clever, which is why they are often trained to perform in water shows.
Mekong dolphins swim in groups. Oftentimes when one dolphin is found, many others are nearby. The dolphin can remain under the surface for 5 to 10 minutes at a time and can swim to very deep water.
Before 1970s, thousands of Mekong River dolphins could be found. They migrate in rainy season between the Upper Mekong, the Tonle Sap, and the Lower Mekong rivers. During the Khmer Rouge regime, from 1975 to 1979, the dolphins were killed for their fat, which was used to run engines.
Besides the Mekong River dolphin, Cambodia is also home to sea dolphins. They inhabit the waters off of Piem Krasaob in Koh Kong district, Koh Kong province. Dolphins are an important part of Cambodia’s ecosystem. They also attract tourists, and therefore are a source of income for government and Cambodians.
There are two other creatures worth mention here; both are believed to exist only in Cambodia. The first is the Chak Chreng, a snaillike creature about 3 to 4 centimeters long with a rough shell lives along the rocks. In dry season, local Cambodians catch the creatures to sell and eat, because they are delicious.
The second species is the Dambang fish. It looks like the Ros fish or Katungchey fish, but it has a longer body. Once abundant, its numbers have been depleted in recent years by fishermen using batteries or bombs to catch fish.