More than 2,000 hectares of the decimated Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri province have been classified by the Ministry of Environment (MOE) as the sanctuary’s first community protected area.
Surrounded by three economic land concessions in Kon Mom district, the protected area is populated by a number of critically endangered species, including the white-shouldered ibis.
As well as the new classification, the ministry has also agreed to NGO-funded community patrols in the area, which rights groups say is being decimated by illegal loggers who allegedly transport felled timber onto the concessions.
“We’re excited because it will allow us to help the community set up a patrol because the [MOE] doesn’t have enough rangers to patrol the whole area,” said Bou Vorsak, program manager for BirdLife International in Cambodia.
But not everyone is convinced the newly protected sanctuary will prevent illegal logging.
“It doesn’t make sense that a community protected area has to be created within a wildlife sanctuary.… It sounds like someone isn’t doing their job if more protection is needed,” said Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia.
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, welcomed the move if it genuinely empowers the community to combat logging.
“Hopefully, this will help stop forest crimes from happening all the time,” Thy said.