Phnom Sampau’s Bats Cave

This cave is one of three at Phnom Sampeu that contain colonies of over one million Asian wrinkle- lipped bats (Chaerephon plicatus).

Only 13 colonies of the species are known in Cambodia. These are thought to support over 6.5 million bats in total, and the colonies at Sampeu are among the largest in the country Wrinkle-lipped bats fly up to 50 km from their roosts each night to hunt insects.

These include serious agricultural pests like plant-hoppers that can destroy up to 60 % of the rice harvest . As each bat eats 50-100 % of its own weight ( about 15 grams) every night, the colonies in Cambodia likely prevent the loss of over 2,000 tons of rice a year. This equals enough rice to feed over 21,000 Cambodians annually.

Large colonies of wrinkle-lipped bats are increasingly rare in Southeast Asia due to hunting and mining of the limestone hills where they live. It is illegal to hunt, harm or harass wildlife under Cambodian Law.

Please do not disturb the bats (this includes throwing objects, making loud noises, or using flash photography) so that the people of Battambang can continue to benefit from the important ecological services they provide.

History

The story begins in the old Khmer capital in the Dangkrek Mountains, where Prince Reach Kol fell in love with Neang Sovan Macha.

Along with her beauty, Sovan Macha was noted for her close friendship with a talking crocodile named Athon. But as in contemporary royal families, worries arose over the appropriateness of Sovan Macha’s involvement with a prince.

Sovan Macha, after all, was poor and her relationship with an intelligent crocodile was a source of no small concern Kol decided to end his relationship and to cement the severing of his son’s ties to Sovan Macha, Kol’s father asked his loyalists to find a princess to marry his son.

Soon enough a suitable match was found in Princess Rom Say Sork of a neighboring kingdom. Along with the royal blood that flowed in her veins, Say Sork’s most notable other attribute was a head of divine hair that allowed her the granting of any wish with one stroke of her silky mane. After the betrothal was finalized, Reach Kol ordered his people to load the engagement presents onto a ship to retrieve his new wife. When Sovan Macha learned of this, she flew into a jealous rage and ordered her pet crocodile Athon to block the ship from leaving port.

Attempts by Reach Kol to reason with Athon were met with the obstinate reply of “I serve only those who feed me.” That prompted a shower of vegetables, chickens and ducks tossed into the harbor by Kol and his retinue in the hope that Athon would switch his allegiance to them. Athon chastely ignored the barrage of tempting edibles raining down around him and continued his blockade of the ship.

Desperate, Reach Kol prayed for divine intervention to allow him to reach his beloved. A helpful spirit passed on his yearnings to Rom Say Sork herself. In order to break the control that Athon the crocodile had on her nuptial bliss, she began stroking her hair and wished that the sea would recede.

The result of her strokes were soon apparent: Athon was soon floundering on the now-empty sea bottom among the remains of the food that he had declined.

He died soon after, his body becoming a mountain called Crocodile Mountain (Phnom Kroh Peu) within sight of Phnom Sampov. Smaller mountains sprang up around Crocodile Mountain, made up of chicken and duck carcasses and their former cages.