A group of villagers from Koh Kong’s Areng Valley gathered outside the offices of Flora & Fauna International (FFI) in Phnom Penh yesterday, demanding a say in a project designed to relocate endangered Siamese crocodiles from the site of the planned Stung Cheay Areng dam.
“We want to be included in this project. If these crocodiles are moved elsewhere this will hurt our community,” Ren Chanrith, a representative of the Cambodian Youth Network, said.
Since FFI’s announcement of the relocation program in February last year, villagers say at least one crocodile has been found dead and two letters to FFI raising concern over the crocodiles – which villagers consider “holy guardians” – have gone unanswered.
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson of NGO Mother Nature Cambodia said FFI’s crocodile relocation program was a “scam” because it was being sold as a project backed by the community.
“Today we’re here to deliver our questions in person,” he said, adding that if the villagers’ questions went unanswered the next step would involve a social media campaign.
But according to FFI country director Tuy Serey Vathana, only one of the roughly 30 to 40 remaining reptiles has been relocated from Areng River to a location 70 kilometres away.
“We’re willing to provide all and any answers to the community this week. The project has been halted until rainy season begins and our new project manager arrives in May,” he said.