As of the end of 2022, environmental activist Ben Davis has dug 19 km of canals and built 7 km of fences and roads in an effort to prevent natural resource crimes from happening in the core areas of the Phnom Tnaot-Phnom Pok wildlife sanctuary located in Preah Vihear and Siem Reap provinces.

He has ambitions to complete the construction of the remaining 18 kilometers of canals and fences by the end of 2023 and called for more support to make this happen.

Davis said that so far he has received more than $120,000 from the Ministry of Environment and philanthropists for conservation and development of Phnom Tnaot-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary. The money has been used to dig 19 kilometers of canals and seven kilometers of fences and roads, stretching from the village to the forest.

According to Davis, the environment ministry permits him to manage the 7,300ha core area in Phnom Tnaot with the highest potential for natural resources and biodiversity. The area is rich in wildlife and has the thickest forest.

To protect the area and its wildlife, he has been dinging canals and fences to prevent wild animals from crossing and going over to destroy farmers’ crops and animals.

“We do not want the wildlife to be in a cage, but it is dangerous if they go outside. The area has too many plantations and they can destroy farmers’ crops like paddy rice and potatoes, especially the wild boars and gaurs. So we think it is safer if they are fenced in. We can protect both wild animals and people’s crops too,” he said.

Ben said he was so happy to see through a survey that 90 per cent of the population was satisfied with the project to build a fence to protect the core area of the sanctuary. According to the survey, people see his forest conservation efforts over the last three years as very successful.

The environmental activist stated that the construction of a canal to protect the core area had cost nearly $80,000, and that digging and fencing was still currently underway.

“To complete all 37 kilometers, we’re measuring the area by GPS and we still lack a lot of coverage. If we want to make it good quality and long lasting, we probably need another $50,000 and then maybe 99 per cent of the animals can’t get out,” he said.

Ben said that natural resources crimes in 2021 and 2022 were at a similar rate. He said that the territory under his defense has expanded to a greater extent and as a result the number of crimes within the territory he supervises have increased accordingly.

“In 2019 we protected only 10,000ha, and in 2021 it expanded to about 20,000ha. This year the area under my oversight is about 30,000ha,” he said.

Ben stated that for 2023, he will continue to build canals and fences around the remaining core area of about 18 kilometers, while the process of exchanging land with people from the core area is continuing every day.

Environment ministry secretary of state Neth Pheaktra said on January 9 that through the Environmental and Social Fund, the ministry provides $20,000 a year to Davis for use in the protection and conservation of the Phnom Pok-Phnom Tnaot Wildlife Sanctuary. The funding has been in place for the past four years, while the project is scheduled to last for five years and the ministry will consider further possibilities for additional support.

“He has been very cooperative and has worked together honestly and professionally, focusing on the protection and conservation of biodiversity in the area, because that area is an area rich in many rare species, especially gaur herds,” he said.

The environment ministry will continue to cooperate with Davis and the community to maintain the Phnom Tnaot-Phnom Pok Wildlife Sanctuary permanently, he said.

He added that the ministry is also pushing for a carbon credit project to raise additional funds to support the protection, conservation and community development of protected areas around the sanctuary.