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Cambodia is one of the most biodiverse countries in south-east Asia. Its forests harbour many threatened species that have disappeared from other neighbouring countries. The Siamese crocodile, Asian elephant and tiger all survive in the country’s lush forest refuges.
As Cambodia’s economy is developing, hitherto inaccessible forest areas face a myriad of threats from logging, mining, poaching and agricultural encroachment. The main challenge for the Royal Government of Cambodia is to balance the needs of economic development with sustainable natural resource use.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has built strong relationships with the Royal Government of Cambodia over the past 13 years. FFI assists the national authorities in building up their institutional capacity and in developing environmental policies and legislation. We place equal importance on the inclusion of civil society and the corporate sector in sustainable natural resource management.
FFI’s field activities focus on community engagement and empowerment, law enforcement, bio-monitoring and research. The combined output of all these interventions will strengthen biodiversity conservation whilst building good governance and alleviating poverty.
Following decades of under-investment in the education sector, biodiversity conservation in Cambodia is severely hampered by a shortage of trained biologists and reliable biodiversity data. To address this issue, FFI helped the Royal University of Phnom Penh establish Cambodia’s first Master’s degree course in biodiversity conservation in 2005, which has trained over 100 Cambodian nationals to date. Alongside this, we also helped to found the country’s first natural history museum and scientific periodical, the Cambodian Journal of Natural History, in 2007-2008. Having more recently created an interdisciplinary group of academics and conservation practitioners, we are now assisting the group to undertake original lines of conservation research in Cambodia.
FFI Cambodia’s newest programme is interested in conserving Cambodia’s coastal and marine ecosystems. The team works closely with the government on species and awareness programmes. However, as most of the coastline and islands are owned by concessions, it is essential that conservation initiatives should also include private concession holders in the protection of coastal and marine biodiversity.
The first of the initial projects is marine turtle conservation, focusing on nesting of hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricate, by-catch reduction of all marine turtles and capacity building. The second is an islands community conservation project, which assists communities on two private island concessions to manage natural resources sustainably and protect terrestrial and marine biodiversity. Future work will aim to support the government in managing protected marine reserves.
Cambodia’s islands are surrounded by coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests. Coastal areas owned by the government are being leased to various companies as economic land concessions to accelerate the country’s development. FFI is working with coastal concession holders interested in low impact tourism with the objective of conserving island and marine biodiversity and involving local communities in the sustainable use of natural resources. Working alongside the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, the project will strengthen in-country knowledge of marine biodiversity and support the design and implementation of Cambodia’s first Marine Protected Area, proposed around two large offshore islands.
FFI is working with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration to assess the status and distribution of marine turtles, protect priority areas and raise awareness of turtle conservation on the coast and islands of Cambodia. We are conducting interviews in coastal areas to learn more about turtle activity, sightings, habitat use, nesting sites and trade. Hawksbill turtle nesting sites have been discovered on one island, and we are working to ensure that these are well protected. We are conducting further beach surveys to search for more nesting sites.
The Critically Endangered Siamese crocodile is now extinct from 99% of its former range, following decades of hunting and habitat loss. Less than 250 adults remain, mostly in Cambodia. FFI is working with the Government and local communities to protect the remaining wild crocodiles and their habitat by developing crocodile sanctuaries protected by local community wardens. We also advocate for stricter controls over crocodile farming and trade and carry out research and monitoring. In 2009, FFI helped to discover 35 purebred Siamese crocodiles in a local wildlife rescue centre and has developed the first conservation breeding programme in the country – a vital source of genetic diversity for the re-introduction of the species into new areas.
There are currently estimated to be 400-600 wild elephants in Cambodia, with the main concentration located in the Cardamom Mountains in south-west Cambodia, and the eastern plains of Mondulkiri Province. FFI established the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group (CECG) in 2005 to ensure the survival of the Asian elephant in Cambodia, stabilising and increasing wild elephant populations throughout the country. The group brings together three different institutions so that government and non-governmental wildlife managers act together to strike a balance between local community needs and elephant habitat requirements. FFI provides technical and fundraising support, complementing the expertise of government wildlife management agencies, the Ministry of Environment and the Forestry Administration. We are delighted that the project is now managed by Cambodian nationals who work with forest communities to reduce human-elephant conflict and raise awareness. The group also focuses on increasing government capacity, gathering vital information through camera trapping and habitat threat mapping and developing cooperation with neighbouring and other range states.
Since 2006, FFI has been exploring ways in which emerging Payments for Ecosystem Services mechanisms can be harnessed for the benefit of conservation and local communities. The core idea behind REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, plus enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries) is to make performance-based payments to forest communities who help reduce emissions by conserving their forest. To succeed, REDD+ requires a broad set of policies and institutional reforms that clearly define land tenure and carbon rights.
To help with this, FFI has secured a three million Euro EU-funded project on ‘Developing community carbon pools for REDD+ projects in selected ASEAN countries’. The project has been designed to build the capacity of local communities and local governments to actively participate in REDD+ pilot projects in Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia and to feed lessons learned into policy dialogues at sub-national, national and regional levels. The project also supports the design and implementation of pilot REDD+ projects, with the aim of establishing social and environmental safeguards and ensuring equitable benefit sharing.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is supporting the Ministry of Environment and the Royal Government of Cambodia in the conservation of the highly diverse Cardamom Mountains Range. These forested mountains represent some of the region’s largest remaining areas of habitat for more than 80 threatened species including Asian elephant and gaur. FFI is helping to manage and protect the 333,750 hectare Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary by training, equipping and advising a team of 51 government rangers who patrol the forest. We are also undertaking research and monitoring programmes to understand in greater detail the area’s biodiversity. Additionally, FFI is working with local communities, some of the poorest in Cambodia, to increase their overall standard of living.