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Species in ‘dramatic decline’ in east: WWF

Banteng, a species of wild cattle found in Cambodia, graze on forest foliage in the Kingdom’s Eastern Plains in 2010. WWF
Banteng, a species of wild cattle found in Cambodia, graze on forest foliage in the Kingdom’s Eastern Plains in 2010. WWF

Species in ‘dramatic decline’ in east: WWF

Multiple animal species are in “dramatic decline” on Cambodia’s Eastern Plains as a result of habitat loss, road incursion, insufficient law enforcement and poaching, the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement yesterday.

“Camera traps and other scientific research show a big loss of wild animals over the last years,” the statement said.

At a workshop held yesterday in Mondulkiri, the WWF told national, provincial, district and community authorities that a stronger emphasis on law enforcement was necessary.

“We are still facing immense problems to combat biodiversity loss,” WWF’s Eastern Plains manager Moul Phath said in the statement.

The Eastern Plains cover most of Mondulkiri and parts of its neighbouring provinces. The WWF could not be reached yesterday to provide exact figures of animal loss or which species are the most threatened.

Wildlife Conservation Society country director Ross Sinclair yesterday said the species in decline included wild pigs and bantengs. But, he added, since snares were the preferred poaching method across the country, many animals and birds fell victim.

According to villagers in various provinces, Cambodians hunt a diverse range of game including monkeys, deer, sambar, pigs, muntjacs and multiple types of reptiles and birds.

The WWF and WCS both said that there were not enough rangers to defend protected areas, let alone the forests more generally. Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap acknowledged this yesterday, saying that the government was doing the best it could with a limited budget.

Sopheap said that as the Ministry of Environment took on a larger role in protecting forests, it would enact a new law that would allow environment officials to outsource some patrol duties to community members.

Sopheap could not confirm whether there was an increase or decrease in the rate of animals being poached. The WWF also said that habitat loss was a major problem, stemming from encroachment from plantations.

Companies bought land from villagers to establish plantations while people intruded on conservation areas in search of new land and cut the trees for agriculture, the NGO said.

To combat this, plantations should develop according to a master plan preserving as much contiguous forest as possible, according to WWF.

“Spatial planning is the key to harmonising development and conservation,” said Phath.

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