The Belgian ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos paid a three-day visit to Cambodia to learn about the work being done to conserve biodiversity, including rare deer and dolphins in the Mekong River.

Silbille de Cartier d'Yves, whose residence is in the Thai capital Bangkok, visited the Mekong flooded forest area in Kratie province on December 1-3 to learn about the work of conserving biodiversity being funded by the Belgian government through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Belgium and implemented by WWF Cambodia.

She also visited the forest habitat of muntjacs, or barking deer, near the Koh Prum Charey ecotourism community in Prek Prasob Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mekong River's Irrawaddy dolphin conservation area in the Kampi sanctuary.

WWF Cambodia said in a press statement that the delegation had met to discuss relevant tasks, strengthening law enforcement, monitoring and researching biodiversity and the community livelihood development programme, which was developed in close cooperation with the government and the local communities.

Citing a 2020 census of dolphins, WWF said dolphins were considered to be the living national heritage of Cambodia and their numbers were estimated to be at 89, all living on the Mekong River in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

“The survival of the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins was threatened by illegal fishing in protected areas and building hydropower dams on the upper streams. We need more urgent and stronger cooperation to set up measures to more effectively conserve them to avoid their extinction,” he said.

WWF thanked the Belgian government for funding and supporting the conservation programme and the community livelihoods development programme in the Mekong flooded forest areas in Cambodia.

The Ministry of Environment said that in the Mekong flooded forest areas, the ministry and the WWF were collaborating closely with relevant departments, communities and local authorities to protect forests and natural resources and endangered wildlife in two protected areas covering 62,000ha.

The Prek Prasob Wildlife Sanctuary is rich in red muntjacs, leopards and musk cats. The sanctuary is also the habitat of Eld's deer and rare birds such as the giant ibis, white-shouldered ibis, woolly-necked storks, lesser adjutant storks, peacocks and river gulls, all of which are endangered species.