The Ministry of Environment is planning to declare wild Kesor Kol plants – a type of orchid – an endangered species with increased protections, according to the ministry’s secretary of state Neth Pheaktra.
Pheaktra also warned of legal action against those who collect or sell wild Kesor Kol and those who transport the plants abroad.
The warning came as he led a team from the ministry and more than 30 journalists on a trip to inspect the Kesor Kol Sok An Phnom Kulen Research and Conservation Centre in Siem Reap province on December 19.
Most of the commercially valuable and endangered wild Kesor Kol are located in the Cardamom Mountains and highlands areas.
Pheaktra said that in Cambodia, there are approximately 500 to 700 different types of wild Kesor Kol plants present in five areas: the Cardamom Mountains, the central lowlands, the highlands, coastal areas and the islands, and other mountainous regions.
He added that due to the destruction of wild Kesor Kol habitat and the over-harvesting and exploitation of plants through illegal collection and trade, many types of wild Kesor Kol had become critically endangered.
“The environment ministry would like to warn those who do big business selling wild Kesor Kol, and those who destroy it, that we will apply legal measures. The ministry has already warned those doing business [collecting or selling wild Kesor Kol] that their activities have grown excessive now to the point of devastation and we won’t let them continue to do it,” he said.
Pheaktra said that all types of wild Kesor Kol and other natural resources in designated areas are protected by law. He said those who collect, buy, sell and transport wild Kesor Kol with the intent to destroy them could face a fine and imprisonment for one to five years.
“Of the 500 to 700 types of wild Kesor Kol, some are endangered and some are almost extinct. The environment ministry has been preparing to [legally] declare these plants as endangered and to be protected. They may disappear if we do not take action,” he said.
According to the ministry, about 40 per cent of Cambodian wild Kesor Kol is found in the Cardamom Mountains (including Bokor Mountain), 35 per cent in coastal areas, 13 per cent in dry forest areas, and 10 per cent at the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers. The remaining two per cent of wild Kesor Kol can mostly be found in the Dangrek mountain range and east of the Tonle Sap river.
Meanwhile, through the Kesor Kol Sok An Phnom Kulen Research and Conservation Centre, the ministry has been conducting research, compiling data, and working on the identification of previously unknown species of wild Kesor Kol.
Currently, the centre has preserved about 150 types of wild Kesor Kol, along with 15 types of fern and four types of hoya.
Chan Somaly, the environment ministry under-secretary of state who is also in charge of wild Kesor Kol conservation at Kesor Kol Sok An Phnom Kulen Research and Conservation Centre, said Cambodia established the centre at the end of 2018 to collect wildflowers for conservation and hybrid plant breeding.
She added that if Cambodia had not established the centre it would have faced the certain loss of rare flowers due to the over-collection of them for export.
“This centre is for the benefit of our people and our nation and it is the first such centre in Cambodia. This centre was created for the protection and conservation of wild Kesor Kol and other important plants in our country,” she said.
“We will collect wild Kesor Kol and other important flowers to keep in this centre to make it easier to reintroduce them to the forest. The younger generation should come and learn about wild plants and flowers in Cambodia, especially the wild Kesor Kol,” she added.
According to Somaly, in the future the centre also plans to establish a research centre for flower varieties as well as an entertainment attraction for tourists and nature lovers to learn about plants in Cambodia.
She said wild Kesor Kol was a rare natural resource in Cambodia that needs to be maintained and conserved.