Six Cambodian conservationists have been recognized as “Mekong Conservation Heroes” by the Wonders of the Mekong project for their environmental activities. Their actions include work on endangered species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin, Mekong giant catfish, and giant softshell turtle, as well as outreach and community-based efforts to protect Cambodia’s globally significant forests and fisheries.

An award ceremony to honor the heroes will be held on November 3 at the Himawari Hotel in Phnom Penh. It will recognise each hero, by screening a short video about each of their work.

The heroes programme was developed by the USAID-funded Wonders of the Mekong project to shine a light on inspiring individuals who are working in the lower Mekong basin to study, protect, or raise awareness about the its unique ecosystem, biodiversity, habitats, and cultural heritage.

A healthy Mekong is necessary to support communities, wildlife, and economic activity across Cambodia, US Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy said.

“Recognising and publicising the work of environmental leaders like these heroes is critically important to efforts to promote responsible stewardship of the extraordinary natural wealth of Cambodia’s waterways,” he said.

“The Mekong region, and the world, needs more freshwater heroes, said US-based University of Nevada, Reno fish biologist Zeb Hogan, who leads the Wonders of the Mekong project.

“The work of these six men and women is an inspiration to us all and a reminder of the important connection that we all have with rivers and aquatic life,” he added.

Hoy Sreynov is a fisheries officer at the Department of Aquaculture Development, Cambodian Fisheries Administration. She studies the growth of endangered fishes collected as larvae in the Mekong River that are reared in experimental ponds, and cares for them so that they can be released back into the wild.

Som Sitha is the Mekong and Sre Ambel project manager for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Since helping to rediscover the endangered Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle in the Mekong River between Kratie and Stung Treng ten years ago, he has dedicated himself to conserving this species, including working with communities to protect more than 50 turtles’ nests each year.

Buth Chanmeta is the awareness and outreach senior officer at WWF-Cambodia. Through her awareness raising activities in 90 villages along the Mekong River, Chanmeta helps communicate the value of the Mekong River’s biodiversity and the importance of protecting the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, as well as fish, birds, and other wildlife, to an average of 10,000 people each year.

Hor Sam Ath, is the deputy chief of the Sdei Kraom Rohal Suong Community Fishery Committee. As a respected elder, he engages with community members and government partners to conserve his community’s natural lake, including protecting fish during the dry season, conserving fish spawning areas, restoring the flooded forest, and protecting the habitats of black monkeys and otters.

Luy Rasmey is the executive director of the Culture and Environment Preservation Association. She works to advance sustainable fisheries management and natural resources conservation in northeastern Cambodia by establishing and strengthening community fisheries, community forestry, community-based ecotourism and livelihood development programs.

Lor Kimsan is a research project officer with WWF-Cambodia. He has spent 15 years working to study and conserve biodiversity along the Mekong River between Kratie and Stung Treng, including research and monitoring of globally endangered species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin, hog deer, river tern and white-shouldered ibis.