WWF honours the work of Cambodian rangers in the Eastern Plains Landscape
Rangers, also called forest guards, park wardens or field enforcement officers, are the face of protected areas, reaching out to local communities to build partnerships, undertaking research and monitoring wildlife, in order to build a scientific basis for park management. However, rangers are not always fully equipped, trained or appreciated and often put their lives on the line in the face of armed poachers.
“Without dedicated and motivated rangers, often working in harsh conditions and away from their families, many endangered and rare wildlife would already have been lost,” said Ms Michelle Owen, WWF’s Acting Country Director.
Through the provision of on-the-ground training and necessary equipment to improve management and law enforcement effectiveness, WWF is helping to improve working conditions and capacity of rangers in Mondulkiri, Kratie and Steung Treng; supporting them to safeguard globally important animal species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin, banteng, wild water buffalo, eld’s deer and Asian elephant; and the areas in which they live.
In the past 12 months, for example, enforcement units from Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province confiscated more than 622 cubic meters and 313 logs of luxury wood; along with 67 chain saws, 7 cars and 9 tractors. A total of 25 court cases of illegal logging, poaching and land encroachment have been filled. However, the current number of rangers is insufficient to effectively monitor the forest area of nearly 6,000 square kilometres.
“The illegal wild animal and timber trade across the border between Cambodia and Vietnam poses an additional challenge for the enforcement action on the ground,” Ms Owen said. “Only with a high level of law enforcement by rangers, will the Cambodian government be able to secure protection of this large intact dry forest landscape,” she added.
Mr Keo Sopheak, Manager of Forestry Administration’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest, said a zoning plan, which determines areas and uses within protected area, will enable better management. “We will be able to protect our forest resources more effectively once we have the zoning plan approved by the Royal Government of Cambodia,” he said.
In support of rangers, WWF launched the Cards4Tigers action on World Ranger Day last year to feature rangers from countries where WWF supports tiger conservation. It enables people from all over the world to tell these rangers that they care and thereby help to boost morale and promote the rangers' work. At the end of this one year action, approximately 1,000 postcards were sent to Cambodian rangers from supporters in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, South Africa, Mauritius and other countries in Asia.
Mr Lean Nhor, a ranger from the Mondulkiri Protected Forest said that he felt very proud that there are people all over the world who know what rangers are doing in Cambodia for the protection of tigers and the forest habitat. “The messages in the postcards have inspired me to continue in this work, despite difficulties. I feel encouraged to work even harder to protect this landscape,” he said.
“We thank each and every one who showed their support for these unsung heroes via our Cards4tigers action,” Ms Owen said. “On this World Ranger Day, we salute those who risk their lives for the protection of Cambodia’s forest and wildlife treasure.”
* Through the Eastern Plains Landscape Project, WWF works with the Cambodian government to protect the vast dry forests landscape in the Eastern Plains and the globally significant wildlife it harbours. The project focuses on two conservation areas, Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, covering a total area of approximately 6,000km2. The project’s goal is to keep the last wilderness of Cambodia intact and connected, helping people protect their wildlife while sustaining livelihoods.
* Tiger experts believe the Eastern Plains landscape – the largest intact tropical dry forest in Southeast Asia – has perhaps the highest potential in Asia for tiger re-introduction and to help populations recover.