Cambodia inaugurates two protected areas



Posted on 14 December 2005  | 
The Eastern Plains Landscape of Cambodia is home to many endangered species, including the Asian elephant, as well as banteng, gaur, and Eld’s deer.
© WWF-Canon / Gerald S CubittEnlarge
Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia – The Cambodian government has inaugurated two protected areas, highlighting the global significance of the country’s unique dry forest habitats.

The two protected areas — Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and Mondulkiri Protected Forest — form part of one of the largest complexes of connected protected areas in Southeast Asia, covering more than one million hectares in a region referred to as the Eastern Plains.

“Despite the massive toll that Cambodia’s recent history has taken on the dry forests, there is still hope for the incredible and globally significant biodiversity found here,” said Dr Chris Hails, WWF International’s Conservation Programme Director. “Taking action to protect this area now, will allow wildlife populations to recover and return the Eastern Plains Landscape to its former glory.”

The Eastern Plains Landscape of Cambodia is home to many rare and endangered animal species, and is considered one of the last refuges for populations of several large mammal species in the Dry Forests of Southeast Asia, such as tiger, Asian elephant, wild water buffalo, banteng, gaur, Eld’s deer, and endangered large birds including the sarus crane, and white-shouldered and giant ibises. All these species require large amounts of space and migrate freely throughout the landscape, and often cross into Vietnam, where hunting and trade threats are considered to be more serious.

The Eastern Plains has high potential for sustainable wildlife tourism. Due to the intact nature of the Dry Forest habitat, WWF, in partnership with Cambodia’s Forestry Administration, has recently initiated a pilot project that aims to develop wildlife tourism similar to the safari-style tourism in parts of Africa. Income generated from the project will pay for ongoing conservation initiatives, as well as provide income for local communities and the government.

“Effective protection and conservation of wildlife species will help to make this area become a major tourist destination, second only to Angkor,” said Cambodian Environment Minister Dr Mok Moreth. “Such ecotourism can help to reduce poverty within local communities.”

WWF believes that sustainable tourism development, as one component of effective management of the protected area complex in the Dry Forests, is one of the most viable options for the Eastern Plains, as there is limited potential for other development activities such as agricultural development, for example, because of poor soil fertility and limited water resources.

WWF hopes that the declaration of the two protected areas will help usher in even greater commitment from the government in addressing key threats to the country’s biodiversity and greater cooperation between key environmental ministries.

END NOTES:

• The term Dry Forests refers to a habitat characterized by open deciduous forest, and the associated mosaic of mixed, denser deciduous forest, and semi-evergreen forest.

• WWF has worked in Cambodia since the mid 1990s and is part of the WWF Greater Mekong Programme. The WWF Cambodia programme runs projects mainly in Mondulkiri province through the Srepok Wilderness Area Project (SWAP), Species project in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, and MOSAIC (Management of Strategic Areas for Integrated Conservation), and has a staff of more than 75 including field rangers.

• WWF is calling for concerted efforts in raising funds and developing partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders in order to secure biodiversity conservation on a large scale and over the long term. In the short-term, a key goal of WWF is to achieve protection and effective management of an entire landscape within the Lower Mekong Dry Forests Ecoregion; the Eastern Plains. This will contribute considerably to conserving globally significant biodiversity and essential natural resources that support the livelihoods of local communities.

For further information:
Nick Cox,  Coordinator
WWF Dry Forests Ecoregion Programme
Tel : +855 23 218 034
E-mail: nick-wwf@everyday.com.kh
The Eastern Plains Landscape of Cambodia is home to many endangered species, including the Asian elephant, as well as banteng, gaur, and Eld’s deer.
© WWF-Canon / Gerald S Cubitt Enlarge

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