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Story Publication logo August 26, 2020

Cambodia’s Biggest Lake Is Running Dry, Taking Forests and Fish With It

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Image by Sean Gallagher. Cambodia, 2020.
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"Cambodia has one of the fastest rates of forest loss in the world. In broad swaths of the country...

Cleared forests in Preah Vihear Province, in northern Cambodia near the border with Laos. The South East Asian country has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world; it's estimated that only 3 percent of primary forest remains. Image by Sean Gallagher. Cambodia, 2020.
Cleared forests in Preah Vihear Province, in northern Cambodia near the border with Laos. The South East Asian country has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world; it's estimated that only 3 percent of primary forest remains. Image by Sean Gallagher. Cambodia, 2020.

Hun Sotharith recalls when he moved to Cambodia's Tonle Sap to become a fisherman. It was the early 1990s, and the lake's freshwater swamp forest where he fished was so dense that it could take Sotharith, a former soldier, a day and a half to find the way back to his floating village.

Back then, during the six-month rainy season, the vast wetland became a place to feed, breed, and hide for a wide diversity of fish, including the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish. "Everywhere was forest, and fish was abundant," says Sotharith.

Read the full text by Stefan Lovgren on the National Geographic website.

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