Wildlife Alliance founder and CEO Suwanna Gauntlett made it to Forbes Asia’s Annual Heroes of Philanthropy list, which highlights some of the region’s noteworthy givers, the magazine said on Wednesday.
She was among 40 people in the region whose names were enshrined in Asia’s 2018 Heroes of Philanthropy: Putting Wealth To A Good Cause list.
The honour was given to the altruist due to her dedication in guarding rainforests and wildlife in Cambodia.
Forbes Asia said “ardent” Suwanna had spent about $30 million to finance Wildlife Alliance, which oversees conservation in the Cardamom mountains.
“Suwanna Gauntlett, residing there for 18 years, has dedicated herself to guarding rainforests and wildlife in the country,” it wrote.
Wildlife Alliance director Nick Marx said Suwanna deserved to be honoured as a hero.
“She certainly spent a lot of money in protecting the forest in the southern part of the Cardamom mountains. So yes, I think it should be fair that she was named a hero of Southeast Asia.
“Without her work, the forest in the southern Cardamom wouldn’t be protected,” he said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra shared Marx’s sentiment.
“Ms Suwanna Gauntlett deserves this honour as she had devoted [herself] mentally and physically and mobilised a lot of resources to protect the natural resources and biodiversity in Cambodia, especially in the Cardamom mountains.”
Pheaktra said Suwanna had been actively cooperating with the authorities in raising awareness about illegal wildlife poaching and trading, as well as helping to crack down on wildlife crimes.
Suwanna’s ties with the Cambodian government date back to 2000 when the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Protection and National Park Management office raised the issues of illegal encroachment, poaching and logging with her.
In 2009, with support from the Forestry Administration, Wildlife Alliance leased over 18,000ha to found a wildlife sanctuary and develop the Southern Cardamom Forest Protection Programme that covered the entire Southern Cardamoms.
Today, it oversees eight ranger stations with an average of 8,000 patrols covering 119,552km each year.
Its website said Wildlife Alliance has removed more than 155,494 snares, rescued 4,769 animals from hunters, seized 14,390 chainsaws, arrested 644 offenders and stopped 3,012 illegal forest land encroachment cases.