A senior Ministry of Environment official highlighted the importance of Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province, saying it is of international-level importance in preserving the Asian elephant and several kinds of monkeys, among other species.

The spotlight was turned on the sanctuary by Neth Pheaktra, environment ministry secretary of state and spokesman on July 28, through a presentation to the media.

He said the sanctuary has 75 kinds of endangered wildlife which are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In addition, he said the sanctuary has 959 fungi species which have been catalogued by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia and sanctuary officials. This makes the Keo Seima the sanctuary with the most mixed biodiversity among the natural protected areas of Cambodia.

According to Pheaktra, Cambodia currently has 7.3 million square hectares of protected area, or 41 per cent of the country’s land area. To protect the protected spaces, Cambodia has sold carbon credits to international companies. From 2016 to 2020, the sale of carbon credits earned $11.6 million. The government is looking for more markets to sell carbon credits to to bolster the budget that can be spent on the protection and conservation of natural resources, as well as to create local income.

Chhay Kimheak, head of REDD+ for the Keo Seima Wildlife Conservation Society said that this year the sanctuary had received $600K from the sale of carbon credits to the voluntary market, indicating a trifold increase from $200K in 2021.

“The budget has been shared to 20 villages based on their contribution to natural resource protection,” she said.

Kimheak expected that in 2023 the sale of credits would increase to $1 million, but said it would depend on the contribution of the communities in the protected areas.

According to Pheaktra, two major companies had bought carbon credits, Disney and Gucci. Until now, Cambodia and Indonesia were the only nations in the ASEAN region to sell carbon credits.

“Based on our efforts to protect and conserve natural protected areas, Cambodia is optimistic that we will sell more carbon credits in the coming years.

“The government, through the environment ministry, pays close attention to the protection and conservation of natural resources through the protection of forests, which play an important role in protecting the ecology system of planet earth,” he said.

Pheaktra also gave credit to peace and the win-win policy of Prime Minister Hun Sen, saying that the two had allowed Cambodia the time and energy to focus on protecting its remaining natural resources.