The Ministry of Environment – in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other partner organisations in the environment sector – launched the second campaign to transform Cambodians’ preferences and attitudes about the consumption of bushmeat, according to a joint press release.

The “Protect Our Wildlife: Reduce Buying and Eating Bushmeat” campaign is chaired by ministry secretary of state and spokesman Neth Pheaktra – who also chaired the zero-snaring campaign – and Richard Chen, office director of sustainable economic growth at USAID Cambodia. They are joined by nearly 200 partner organisations as well as students from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

Chen said wildlife is an integral part of Cambodia’s national heritage and plays an important role in maintaining its ecosystems, which benefit the Kingdom’s people and economy. Cambodia’s natural resources and wildlife, he noted, are disappearing from forests and protected areas at a worrying pace.

“The campaign we’ve launched today focuses on youth as protectors of Cambodia’s natural heritage by reducing the demand for bushmeat consumption, which is a significant driver of biodiversity loss,” he said.

He added that the slogan for the campaign is “Let Wildlife Live”, because wildlife are an integral part of Cambodia’s natural heritage, economy and culture.

This effort is aligned with the ministry’s “zero-snaring campaign”, which was launched in March of this year, said Chen.

“Reducing the demand for bushmeat will drive down the incentive to snare and illegally hunt,” he said.

He added that involving youth in environmental protection and wildlife conservation was crucial for the protection of the country’s natural resources and a key element to sustainable growth of Cambodia’s economy.

Chen said the energy and commitment of young adults can help increase the overall public commitment to conserve nature and biodiversity in the Kingdom, both today and for future generations.

“That is why USAID is proud to partner with youths, the private sector and our Cambodian government counterparts to address negative behaviours that cause forests and biodiversity loss. It is also why we promote positive actions and support environmentally friendly products and services,” he said.

Chen said this year marks the 72nd anniversary of diplomatic ties between the US and Cambodia and that the US government will continue to support Cambodians in protecting their natural resources and responding to climate change challenges, including with further financial support like the over $100 million that USAID has donated to support environmental programmes in the Kingdom over the past two decades.

“By working together, I know we can improve the protection of Cambodia’s forests, wildlife, and natural resources,” he said.

Pheaktra called on all people to end demand for bushmeat and other illegal wildlife products by refusing to sell, buy, eat or use them.

“All Cambodian people – both young and old – have a common duty to conserve and protect our valuable natural resources,” he said. “We call on all people across the country to say no to bushmeat and to join the government’s efforts in combating the illegal wildlife trade as well as participating in the conservation of our natural resources.”

Pheaktra confirmed that this campaign was a part of the “Zero-Snaring in Cambodia’s Protected Areas” initiative led by the ministry in partnership with World Wildlife Fund for Nature in Cambodia (WWF-Cambodia), USAID, Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia (WCS Cambodia), Conservation International (CI), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), BirdLife International Cambodia Programme, Wild Earth Allies, as well as local communities.