Wildlife Alliance on Wednesday commemorated “World Ranger Day” with a call to support the Kingdom’s forest rangers.

World Ranger Day is celebrated globally every July 31 to mark the accomplishments and work done by rangers in the name of conservation and to honour those killed or injured while protecting the planet’s natural resources.

Neth Pheaktra, the spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said forest rangers were formally established in the country in 1993 and that it celebrated World Ranger Day for the first time in 2017.

“The celebration is aimed at raising public awareness of the dangerous work that rangers do in the hope that all parties could cooperate to protect the environment sustainably,” Pheaktra said.

Hailing the rangers as “conservation heroes”, Wildlife Alliance said: “Without them, there would be no hope of turning the tide in the fight to protect some of the world’s most threatened and endangered species.”

The non-profit organisation lauded its 110 rangers for working “tirelessly on the front lines to locate and remove snares that indiscriminately maim or kill wildlife”.

As of today, 155,494 snares have been removed from the forest floor across Cambodia, it said.

Furthermore, Wildlife Alliance highlighted the rangers’ ongoing efforts in “finding and apprehending poachers and loggers who are wiping out wildlife and their habitat, as well as in stopping illegal land encroachment in the Cardamom Rainforest which has increased by 750% since 2010”.

“Without these conservation heroes, the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape, one of the largest intact rainforests in Southeast Asia, would be just another ‘paper park’ like the majority of protected areas in the region.

“The high-performing rangers directly protect over 55 threatened species across over two million acres [809,400ha] of rainforest,” the organisation said.

Rangers perform patrols in Cambodia’s jungles. Wildlife Alliance on Wednesday marked “World Ranger Day” with a call to support the Kingdom’s forest rangers. Wildlife Alliance Cambodia

The Ministry of Environment said Cambodia’s 7.5 million hectares of national parks account for 41 per cent the country’s territory with about 1,220 rangers dispatched nationwide.

Wildlife Alliance added that Southeast Asia is at the epicentre of the global extinction crisis, and threats are on the rise.

In April, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called for a moratorium on projects impacting the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) in Sumatra, Indonesia.

With an estimated population of fewer than 800, it added, the Tapanuli orangutan is listed as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

In Cambodia, elephants, silvered langurs, dholes and pangolins are among the world’s most endangered animals, Wildlife Alliance said on its website.

Meanwhile, the IUCN on Wednesday issued a statement saying at least 149 rangers have been killed so far this year “due to exposure to hazardous environmental conditions such as floods, fires, illnesses or dangerous animals”.

It said others were targeted because they stood up to poachers, noting that the rangers had “risked their own lives, to be in the front line, every day to preserve and protect natural resources”.

In January last year, three officers – from a Military Police unit, the Environment Ministry and the Wildlife Conservation Society – were shot in Mondulkiri province during a patrol to intercept forestry crimes in Sen Monorom commune.