Endangered animals are among the 73 species of wildlife considered under threat from poaching and encroachment onto forest land that have been identified in the Phnom Tnaot-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province.

The USAID Prey Lang Greening Project said on June 7 that the results of a biodiversity study at the Phnom Tnaot-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary had recorded 73 species of wildlife, including 22 types of mammal, 49 types of bird and two types of reptile.

Twelve of the species identified in the report are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered or threatened, including the banteng, Bengal slow loris, Indochinese silvered langur and green peafowl.

The USAID Prey Lang Greening Project has expressed concern over the loss of existing forests in Cambodia due to a number of threats.

“The main threats to the Phnom Tnaot- Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary are the potential for economic land concessions for mining, encroachment, agriculture and hunting, and human-wildlife conflict is also becoming a concern,” it said.

The USAID Prey Lang Greening Project was established to identify and define biodiversity in areas of high conservation value, especially the Phnom Tnaot-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province.

According to USAID, the Biodiversity Assessment (HCV 1) was conducted by analysing camera trap data obtained over two years, 2020-21, as well as incorporating and reviewing existing data from Our Future Organization (OFO) on wildlife.

The project is also an assessment of HCV 2 – large landscape-level ecosystems – and HCV 3 – rare, threatened and endangered ecosystems, habitats and refugia – was conducted through a review of available literature.

Ben Davis, a conservationist at the Phnom Tnaot-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary, said that while the discovery of such species was a good sign that many remain in Cambodia, wildlife in the area has decreased slightly compared to eight years ago.

“Eight years ago, there were 80 species, so wildlife has decreased. There are now not as many wild wolves, bear or cloud tigers as there were eight years ago – maybe they are now extinct here. But from what has been found, I am happy and remain motivated in protecting wildlife, particularly deer and banteng,” Davis said

In the meantime, he called on people to stop setting traps, the continued use of which would lead to a drastic loss of wildlife in Cambodia.

“While in the core area, wildlife is better protected than before, animals do not stand still, they are moving closer to farmland, and people are setting more traps. Most of the animals that end up in these traps die, and there are now more farmers in the area than before.

“Traps are a serious problem, they are cheap and so simple to use that even children can set them. A trap can kill large animals such as deer and banteng even though these animals are very large and strong,” Davis said.

However, he said he remains hopeful that through the Zero Trap Campaign in the Preah Vihear protected area, initiated by the Ministry of Environment with the participation of conservation partners, there will be increased contributions to wildlife protection.

Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said the protection of wildlife and forests was led by the ministry, which had partnered with the Prey Lang Greening project to protect and conserve natural resources.

“In this task, first of all we are strengthening the implementation of the law, preventing illegal wildlife hunting by cracking down on the perpetrators. And in regards to illegal wildlife hunting, we are enforcing additional laws relating to the submission of cases to court in instances of hunting endangered and rare species,” Pheaktra said.

The Ministry of Environment is also leading project partner organisations in launching a zero-trap campaign to remove the deadly devices from protected areas and prevent poaching, while enhancing the local economy for those who rely on natural resources, he added.