Kheang Seangly (left), and Chem Srey Oeun pose with Cambodian tiger paw prints at the International Tiger Conservation Summit in Russia.
TWO young Cambodians are on a life-saving mission – to double the number of tigers in the nation by 2022.
“We want the government to help us with both budget and techniques so that the number of tigers will double by then, said Kheang Seangly, 24, a graduate in environmental studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
She and RUPP sociology student Chem Srey Oeun, 22, have been appointed by the World Wildlife Fund as Cambodia’s tiger ambassadors. That means they’ll be spreading their message through the internet to other youngsters to rally them to the cause while also talking to high school students around the country.
Both girls attended the International Tiger Conservation Summit last month in Vladivostok, Russia, discussing the animal’s prospects with other youngsters from 13 countries where about 3,200 tigers still remain. These countries include Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Russia.
Before they left, Kheang Seangly and Chem Srey Oeun spent time in the jungles of Mondulkiri province tracking tiger footprints and learning how tigers survive in the hills of Cambodia.
“I visited the conservation area in Mondulkiri and saw tiger spoor,” said Chem Srey Oeun. “I was pretty scared but I felt safer because we were walking with the conservation experts who carried rifles.”
The girls joined a trip to the Siberian wilds to see how rangers monitor the tiger population there.
“They didn’t carry any rifles there. They only used walkie-talkies to stay in touch, and they communicated with each other all the time,” she said.
“We walked with the rangers, and they told us how they count the number of tigers. They set camera traps with bait to attract the tigers. They also told us how to examine tiger footprints, so the main focus of the tour was on conservation techniques,” said Chem Srey Oeun.
However, the number of tigers remaining in Cambodia is still unknown, said WWF press officer Tep Asnarith. Conservationists were waiting for DNA analysis of scat samples from two tiger preservation areas in Mondulkiri province totalling 6,000 square kilometres, he said.