Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mondulkiri rangers struggle with encroachers

Mondulkiri rangers struggle with encroachers

Mondulkiri rangers struggle with encroachers

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) warned in a report released on October 14

that the rapid increase in land grabbing in Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary will continue

to threaten Mondulkiri's Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area (SBCA) due to the lack

of rangers patrolling to protect the area.

Men Soriyun, Seima Biodiversity Conservation Program's project manager, said six

rangers and eight military police have struggled to protect the 300,000 hectares

of SBCA in the former Samling forest concession along National Route 76, south of

Sen Monorom.

He said WCS had spent about $200,000 a year supporting ranger patrols to protect

the SBCA since 2002.

"If the rangers stop patrolling the parks for one month, forest crimes will

occur along the boundaries of the wildlife conservation areas," said Soriyun.

"I think the small number of rangers is not enough to sustain such a large area."

He said there would be illegal logging and illegal hunting along the borders of the

SBCA area.

In 2000, the large commercial logging concession held by Samling International was

declared a special conservation zone by ministerial decree, he said, and has become

a target for active conservation efforts.

WCS's report said the core area supports important populations of many wildlife species

threatened with extinction, including guar, banteng, elephants, tigers, small cats,

bears, primates and green peafowl.

Now that the logging teams have gone and most weapons have between confiscated under

national programs, the problem has decreased, but hunting and snaring remain threats

to wildlife, Soriyun said.

He said it was estimated that 1,000 people had moved from Kampong Cham, Takeo, Prey

Veng and Svay Rieng provinces on to the land in the Snoul Wildlife Sanctuary near

the SBCA.

These people cleared the forest, then occupied and farmed the land for a few years

and after that sold it, then moved on themselves to repeat the process nearby, Soriyun

said.

He said the influx was a result of population growth in lowland areas: as a family

grew, it became unable to provide farmland for each family member, so the landless

migrated to Mondulkiri.

"I think the new immigrants have no knowledge about wildlife conservation; they

think it is unused land," said Soriyun.

He said that though the WCS has tried to keep the SBCA as a sustainable conservation

area, the lack of rangers or military officials meant the area remained vulnerable.

Continuing immigration, especially families wanting to establish rice paddies at

new settlements, was the greatest threat to the conservation area.

A World Bank newsletter published in August/September 2005 says there are around

30,000 people living in or within five kilometers of the boundaries of the SBCA,

at least 17,000 of them members of indigenous ethnic minorities. Many of these people

were dependent on the forest for a significant part of their livelihood.

Hy Sophal, chief of Mondulkiri's Forestry Administration (FA), said there were still

cases of forest clearance near the boundaries of the SBCA, but they were small-scale.

He said FA officials and the WCS have determined the priority areas rich in species

and planned to set up camps and increase staff in those areas.

"We believe the government has a clear policy to keep wildlife conservation

under control and [maintain] sustainable habitation for the species," Sophal

said.

He said FA officials have conducted a survey of the increasing number of new people

in fragile areas.

"In some case it is difficult to take action against individual people because

they are poor, but we keep an eye on the large-scale forest clearance for business."

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