Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina has floated the idea of memorialising the names of those who supported the conservation of the Kingdom’s precious population of Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris). He also offered them a chance to become registered guards in the dolphin protected areas of the Mekong River.

Local officials backed the suggestions, saying the initiative would improve conservation resources and the dolphins would be safer.

The ideas were mooted during the May 23 ceremonial handover of boats and patrol equipment at the Mekong dolphin conservation headquarters in Sambok commune of Kratie province’s Chitr Borei district.

During the event, Tina expressed his admiration for the river guards who worked hard to protect the critically endangered mammals, noting that they carried out their work efficiently.

The minister also urged improved cooperation to identify offenders and source quality equipment, so that patrol activities would yield even greater results.

“In this spirit, we should examine the possibility of recording the names of those who love and support the conservation of the dolphins, and offer them the chance to register as guards. This will encourage philanthropists and members of the public to participate in safeguarding these precious natural treasures for all of us,” he said.

Stung Treng Provincial Hall spokesman Men Kong said on May 24 that authorities at all levels and relevant departments hailed Tina’s initiative.

He added that the authorities in the province have vowed to join the ministry in successfully implementing the plans.

“Offering those who love the dolphins the opportunity to register as guards gives the youth and other members of local communities the chance to participate in protecting and conserving the dolphin population, which is one of the Mekong’s greatest natural treasures,” said Kong.

The initiative is an integral part of people joining the authorities and their partner conservationists in valuing and caring for the Kingdom’s unique biodiversity, not just the dolphins but also of the other natural resources.

Six motor boats, 44 life jackets, 24 pairs of binoculars and 5.5 million riel ($1,350) from the Kratie provincial governor were presented to the eleven river guard stations.

Tina and the provincial authorities also participated in the burning of a large quantity of seized illegal fishing equipment.