BIRDLIFE International Cambodia Programme has completed digging 20 ponds in the Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district to improve water resources and habitat for wildlife and livestock and increase food resources for residents and fauna.

Birdlife project manager Mak Sopheap told The Post on May 25 that the excavation of the 20 ponds began in January.

Sopheap said that starting to dig the ponds in January was necessary because the soil is dry and not very hard. If delayed until April, the soil hardens making it difficult to dig.

“The sanctuary is on a plateau and there are not many rivers except the Sekong. In the dry season, water flows into the river and dries the forest, and the ponds cannot provide wildlife shelter or drinking water. So, we dig more ponds to cover a greater area,” said Sopheap.

According to the organisation’s report, the program in Cambodia is funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, contributing about $50,000. From 2016 to the present, the organisation has dug 46 ponds.

According to Sopheap, BirdLife International Cambodia plans to seek more donations to dig more ponds. There are more than 200 ponds in the sanctuary, but only seven per cent have water in the dry season.

The sanctuary has mostly endangered species such as giant trout, white-necked vultures, cranes and peacocks. There are also reindeer and bears that depend on the water in the ponds.

Mok Van, a resident of Khi Krom village in the district’s Prek Meas commune, said the ponds in the sanctuary have greatly benefited the people and animals that live in the forest.

“A pond conserves natural resources and also benefits villagers’ cattle. More than 1,000 families depend on pond water,” he said.

According to Van, two or three years ago, people in this area did not understand the importance of conserving natural resources, but this year people are more aware due to education.

The Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of more than 60,000ha in Stung Treng province and was established by sub-decree in 2016.