T high-ranking environmental official in the government has told the Post that rampant
trade in illegal wildlife within Virachey National Park (VNP) is proving a major
threat to conservation efforts in the area.
The greatest damage is being done in the remote area of the park that juts between
Vietnam and Laos, known as the Dragon's Tail - an area blessed with unique biodiversity
and natural resources but hampered by illegal activites and the lack of clear border
Virachey is experiencing environmental degradation, unsustainable resource extraction,
human population pressure, unclear boundaries and uncontrollable wildfires, according
to a report of the VNP Management Plan 2003-2007 issued by the Ministry of Environment.
The report claims that poaching of endangered fauna to feed the demands of the illegal
wildlife trade is a major threat to the park's future.
"Because the border with Vietnam and Laos has not yet been demarcated, it is
difficult to keep the scale of illegal wildlife trade under control because we cannot
access the areas where there are still no poles along the border," said the
official, who declined to be named. "But we have had negotiations with our partners
in Vietnam and Laos at the local level which are aimed at granting access to areas
for wildlife patrols."
The report said that the Virachey park, contiguous with protected areas in both Laos
and Vietnam and with other protected areas in Cambodia, must receive effective international
collaboration for these areas to be managed.
The report concludes that synchronized programs must be launched to facilitate information
sharing, patrols, community development, tourism, data management and a regional
Thuk Kroeun Vutha, Undersecretary of State for the Environment, told the Post on
June 23 that a management plan has been undertaken to ensure sustainable conservation
of biodiversity and natural resources in the park because of the high potential for
The report said the conservation of Virachey's ecosystem could lead to its recognition
as a World Heritage Site (WHS).
The inclusion of Virachey Park on the WHS list would require that all the various
protected areas be under close supervision. It would also open up the opportunity
to receive funding from UNESCO to carry out management activities that would otherwise
not have been possible due to the limited funding for Virachey.
The government borrowed $2.09 million from the World Bank, and the Global Environmental
Facility (DFE) granted $2.24 million for a four-year project to assist capacity building,
park protection and management and community development, according to a World Bank
"The project's goal is to improve the capabilities in the Ministry of Environment
to plan, implement and effectively monitor National Protected Areas," the document
said. "This includes developing and testing proactive measures to minimize unsustainable
exploitation and degradation of the biodivesity of national and global significance
in the VNP."
Tu Sopheak, Virachey Park project manager, has said the local authorities have had
good cooperation in patrolling the park to ensure there is no wildlife poaching,
illegal logging or unauthorized prospecting for gold.
"We have had good cooperation for our crackdown on crimes that occur in the
park," he said. "And criminal activity has been decreasing since 2004.
We estimate that about 80 percent of the park is being kept under control and we
are working to maintain the cultural values of the [ethnic] minority groups."
Virachey National Park covers 3,325 square km in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces
in northeastern Cambodia.
Both Laos and Vietnam have protected areas adjacent to Virachey and experts say that
all the areas should be considered a single protected area with the primary objective
of conserving biodiversity. The total area under protection across the three countries
is approximately 820,000 hectares, making it one of the biggest protected areas in