Enforcement support for the protection of critically endangered Mekong Dolphins



Posted on 24 May 2013  | 
Kratie town, Kratie province – On Monday 20 May 2013, equipment necessary for effective law enforcement including radio communication tools, GPS units, life jackets, water proof cameras, boat engines, enforcement uniforms and solar panels were handed over by WWF to the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of the Mekong Dolphin Ecotourism Zone. Financed by the IUCN’s Save Our Species Programme, this equipment will give a boost to the current efforts by the Dolphin Commission river guards, who are performing enforcement work on a 190km stretch of the mainstream Mekong River between Kratie, Cambodia and Khone Falls on the border with Lao PDR known to be the habitat range of the Irrawaddy dolphin.

WWF also provided a 4-day training course for the enforcement units, covering patrol techniques, first aid skills, use of GPS for geo-referencing locations and navigation, understanding and applying legislations related to dolphin protection.

“Enforcement is a daily challenge and requires a variety of skills and tools,” said His Excellency Touch Seang Tana, Chairman of the Dolphin Commission. “We are very thankful to receive the equipment and training as it will greatly support our work that is mostly done in remote areas where we need to rely on ourselves, with no access to essential amenities such as electricity or fuel. Items such as the solar panels would greatly increase our capability in patrolling and enforcement at more remote areas now.”

80 river guards are working along the Mekong in Kratie and Steung Treng number, and are at the frontline implementing Cambodian laws that specifically protect the Mekong dolphins. While fishing is permitted in the area, enforcement against methods that bring harm to Irrawaddy dolphins is critical to save the creatures from extinction. Entanglement in gillnet is identified as a major threat to dolphin survival.

In August 2012, the Royal Government of Cambodia issued a sub-decree that banned gillnet fishing in the dolphin habitat. To be effective, the sub-decree and other relevant regulations related to fisheries must be reinforced and patrolling must be carried out.

“The Dolphin Commission recognises that enforcement is a cornerstone of conservation of the Mekong dolphin,” His Excellency Touch Seang Tana said. “All river guard personnel must effectively utilise equipment and skill obtained from this training in their duty of protecting the dolphin. River guards must also maintain high moral attitudes and be committed to their job.”

According to Mr Thibault Ledecq, Conservation Programme Manager with WWF-Cambodia, the training and equipment will no doubt fortify the pillars that support the river guards’ strong enforcement presence. “WWF values this collaborative partnership, and looks forward to continue working together in support of the sustainable development and conservation of the Mekong river biodiversity,” he said.
His Excellency Touch Seang Tana and Mr Thibault Ledecq at the handover ceremony of equipment donated by the IUCN’s Save Our Species Programme to the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Ecotourism Development to support conservation of the Mekong River Dolphin.
© Asnarith TEP / WWF-Cambodia Enlarge
Mr Crispian Barlow, WWF’s Technical Advisor for Protected Areas Enforcement, demonstrates for river guards basic ranger skills.
© Asnarith TEP / WWF-Cambodia Enlarge

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