The Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), has adopted an action plan to save Asian elephants in Cambodia from extinction.
The conservation plan was compiled by the ministry’s General Directorate of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection (GDANCP) and all stakeholders with technical support from the FFI’s Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group (CECG).
Established in 2015 by the FFI in cooperation with the ministry and the Forestry Administration, the CECG aims to conserve the endangered species by stabilising and increasing its populations throughout Cambodia.
GDANCP director-general Meas Sophal said the action plan is a significant milestone.
“We developed this action plan, the first for Asian elephants in Cambodia, that will guide effective protection of the country’s most iconic species,” he said.
Classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, Asian elephants face a “very high risk” of extinction.
Between 400 and 600 of them are believed to remain in Cambodia and are concentrated mainly in the Cardamom Mountains in the southwest of the country and the eastern plains of Mondulkiri province.
A smaller number of the species can also be found in other parts of the Kingdom, such as the northern plains.
The IUCN said the areas are known for their rich biodiversity, which is ideal for the elephants and other endangered species. However, it said habitat degradation due to deforestation has taken a toll on elephant populations and their long-term survival.
Elephant calves have also fallen victim to snares, which hinder population recovery.
Sophal said the action plan is vital to safeguarding the “cultural heritage icon” for future generations.
“The action plan aims to strengthen the management of Asian elephants with involvement from all stakeholders so that their populations are protected and able to recover, not least in the protected area and biodiversity conservation corridor network, which covers 7.2 million hectares, or 42 per cent, of the country’s surface,” he said.
Asian elephants can reach 6.4m in length and 3m at the shoulder. They weigh up to five tonnes.
They are smaller than African elephants and have a single “finger” on the upper lips of their trunks, while African elephants have a second one on the lower lip, according to the World Wildlife Fund.