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Cardamoms deemed bio gem

Cardamoms deemed bio gem

The Cardamom mountain range-an area of over 900,000 hectares-has been identified

as one of the world's most important biodiversity "hotspots" and thus in

urgent need of preservation, according to officials from US-based NGO Conservation

International (CI).

Three CI officials visited Cambodia this week and spent four hours flying over the

area to get a close look at the nearly uninhabited region.

"It's still intact. It's a gem of a rainforest and one of the most important

areas for biodiversity conservation on the planet," said Kirk Talbott, CI's

senior director for the Asia and Pacific Region.

"We believe it is the largest tract of untouched wilderness area in all of Cambodia,

Laos, Vietnam and Thailand."

CI defines "hotspots" as areas with a high degree of biodiversity and species

differentiation, which are under extreme threat of being destroyed. The government

has already granted four logging concessions in the region, although logging activity

has been minimal thus far.

Based on CI's recent survey, it plans to begin preparations to develop an early warning

system, using advanced technology, to monitor the state of the flora and fauna in

the region.

Long-term, CI will look at providing the resources to preserve the area as best as

possible.

When asked whether CI had the resources to basically lease the area for conservation

purposes, Cheri Sugal, manager of CI's Tropical Wilderness Protection wing said:

"We will explore that possibility.... It depends on the laws in place and costs."

CI is one of many groups interested in the Cardamoms. Flora & Fauna Intl has

surveyed parts of the region on the ground and sent another team there Jan 19 to

spend three months identifying wildlife species.

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