Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Conservation orgs urge government to halt destruction of Phnom Tnout sanctuary

Conservation orgs urge government to halt destruction of Phnom Tnout sanctuary

A banteng is seen in the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear. Conservationists this week urged the government to take urgent action to stop poaching and illegal logging within the preserve. Supplied
A banteng is seen in the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear. Conservationists this week urged the government to take urgent action to stop poaching and illegal logging within the preserve. Supplied

Conservation orgs urge government to halt destruction of Phnom Tnout sanctuary

Conservation organisations are urging the Cambodian government to take immediate action to halt the “rapid rate of destruction” of the recently created Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province and the endangered species found in the protected area.

A group of eight organsations, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Alliance and the Wildlife Conservation Society, released a statement on Wednesday expressing “great concern” at the situation in the sanctuary.

Among the endangered species that are under threat at the sanctuary are bantengs, clouded leopards, sun bears, gibbons, pangolins, dholes and other large waterbird species, according to the statement.

These concerns come on the heels of the government last month dissolving the Snoul Wildlife Sanctuary in Kratie province and the Roneam Duan Sam Wildlife Sanctuary in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces after both protected areas were found to have been completely cleared illegally.

“As is increasingly the case in other protected areas across Cambodia, the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary is experiencing intensive encroachment through land speculation, illegal logging, and illegal hunting of Cambodia’s wildlife species,” the organisations' statement reads. “Unless immediate action is taken by the appropriate authorities to enforce the rule of law and to protect this natural heritage, these natural resources may be irretrievably damaged and lost.”

Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, couldn’t be reached for comment and Srun Darin, also a spokesman for the ministry, hadn’t responded to a request for comment as of late Thursday afternoon.

However, the ministry on its official Facebook page posted a brief statement downplaying the organisations' remarks, saying the organisations had congratulated the government for its efforts to protect and manage the country's natural resources, and had supported authorities in taking action against encroachments, illegal loggers and poachers in order to guarantee the preservation of protected areas, especially the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary.

The organisations, in the opening line of their statement, acknowledge the government's effort before going into their concerns.

A cleared area within the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary, which conservationists this week urged the government to protect. Supplied

Ken Sereyrotha, country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said land grabbing and wildlife poaching continue to be a concern and unless the government takes action, it will soon be “too late”.

Sereyrotha blamed different groups for the crimes, including seasonal migrants who are incentivised and encouraged by “opportunists” to help clear the land.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said.

The government needs to enforce the law and educate people as to who has rights to the area, he added. Sereyrotha said he had also been told that the area doesn’t have many environmental rangers.

“The Ministry of Environment needs to increase its budget to have more people on the ground,” he said.

Sen Teak, country director of World Wildlife Fund Cambodia, said there are only three rangers at the sanctuary and a few community patrol members for an area that covers 42,097 hectares of forestland.The illegal activities at the sanctuary " are great concerns."

"Thorough investigation bringing perpetrators to the court is needed," he said via email. "Meanwhile, increasing ranger numbers on the ground and implementing regular patrolling and strict law enforcement are all important action. It is important to deploy trained and effective rangers for protection and enforcement."

Sharyn Davis and her husband Ben Davis built a home in the middle of the forest in Preah Vihear province in 2015 in an effort to protect the area, and have since established an eco-tourism business in a community forest that’s part of the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary, but challenges remain.

“We set up the place for the purpose of protecting the forest there,” she said. “The biggest problem is poaching, clearing and logging. We see it every day. We were naive that it would be easy.”

Davis, whose husband helps patrol the area, said the main culprits, for the most part, are local villagers and outsiders who come from as far as Battambang province.

When people get caught committing forestry crimes and get off with no punishment, she added, “more people see that and they are more confident to come” and do the same.

Natural habitats and wildlife species provide important ecological functions as well as sustainable livelihoods, the statement says.

“As such, we urge the Royal Government of Cambodia, to take appropriate action, without delay against offending land speculators, illegal loggers, and wildlife poachers in order to ensure the protection and sustainable management of this important protected area for current and future generations,” the statement reads.

Teak, of the World Wildlife Fund Cambodia, said that "without responsive action by appropriate authorities, illegal activities in the wildlife sanctuary will likely escalate harming local communities and environment."

This version corrects attribution of the comments from the World Wildlife Fund to country director Seng Teak.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival draws to close

    Cambodia's 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival wrapped up successfully on November 28 after a four-day run, with the film “Voice of the Night” awarded top prize for 2022. Sum Sithen, the organiser of the short film festival, told The Post that the number of attendees to the