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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 neighbouring countries. The Siamese crocodile and Asian elephant still survive in the country’s lush forest refuges.
As Cambodia’s economy is developing, once inaccessible forest areas now face multiple 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 Government over the past 15 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.
A seahorse hotspot has been identified around a small island in the Koh Rong Archipelago with no fewer than six different species of seahorse recorded in this site. This area remains an important diving site in the archipelago, increasingly so for macro divers (those interested in observing and photographic smaller marine life such as seahorses). However, these charismatic animals are increasingly targeted for use in the traditional Asian medicine trade. Although caught as accidental bycatch, their higher market value is resulting in fewer animals being returned to the ocean. FFI will be conducting trade surveys and underwater assessments to understand the impact that this growing pressure is having on wild seahorse populations. Building on this knowledge, we will work with local NGOs and community fisheries as part of a social marketing campaign in order to generate awareness of, and pride in, this flagship species.
FFI has been working with the Fisheries Administration to assess the threats to, and distribution and status of, sea turtles in Cambodia. Through interviews, provincial consultation workshops and national workshops the team has collated information to create a status report for sea turtles and draft the country’s first National Species Action Plan for sea turtles.
The action plan provides a road map to help guide activities for future interventions that will promote the recovery of the species. We will be working to ensure that important turtle foraging habitats and potential nesting beaches are well protected by the proposed marine protected area and will identify sea turtle hotspots for future protection.
FFI has been providing technical input to the Fisheries Administration and supporting policy change as the Cambodian government creates a national plan of action for tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Over the next few years FFI will provide targeted responses to IUU fishing within the Koh Rong Archipelago, making the marine protected area (officially designated as a ‘marine fisheries management area’) a best practice model for national marine management. In parallel we will continue to engage with national government in order to address critical data gaps in current fisheries management, which will help implementation of the national plan of action.
FFI is supporting the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration (FiA) in the management of the country’s first large marine protected area (MPA). The MPA was designated in June 2016 and covers an area of 405 km2 around the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, including fringing reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. FFI is partnering with Song Saa Foundation to deliver a programme of capacity building support to FiA to enable the effective implementation and evaluation of the MPA. Ensuring that this large marine area is brought under improved management is not only crucial for the conservation of valuable marine habitats but also for protecting food security for the many communities living along the Cambodian coastline.
After years of civil war following the Khmer Rouge genocide, and 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 in partnership with the Royal University of Phnom Penh, established Cambodia’s first Master of Science degree in biodiversity conservation in 2005, which has trained over 130 Cambodian nationals to date and provides much needed vocational courses to natural resource management professionals from the NGO and government sector. Subsequently, the project founded a research centre acting as a national hub for postgraduate education, original biodiversity research, information dissemination and inter-agency collaboration. Notable achievements are the management of the country’s first Zoological Reference Collection and the country’s only peer-reviewed scientific journal, the Cambodian Journal of Natural History, first published in 2008.
There are currently estimated to be between 400 and 600 wild elephants in Cambodia, with the main concentration located in the Cardamom Mountains in south-western Cambodia, and the eastern plains of Mondulkiri Province. FFI established the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group in 2005, to ensure the survival of the Asian elephant in Cambodia by 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. FFI provides technical and fundraising support, complementing the expertise of government wildlife management agencies, the Ministry of Environment and the Forestry Administration. We 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 elephant range states.
The Critically Endangered Siamese crocodile is now extinct in 99% of its former range, following decades of hunting and habitat loss. Fewer than 250 adults remain, mostly in Cambodia. FFI is working with the Cambodian 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 stricter controls over crocodile farming and trade, and carry out research and monitoring. In 2009, FFI helped to discover 35 pure-bred Siamese crocodiles in a local wildlife rescue centre and has since developed the first conservation breeding programme in the country – a vital source of genetic diversity for the reintroduction of the species into new areas. In 2012 the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Project launched a programme to release pure-bred individuals back into the wild in suitable sites in the Cardamom Mountains, under the National Siamese Crocodile Reintroduction and Reinforcement Action Plan.
The release into the wild of 20 juvenile Critically Endangered Siamese crocodiles in August 2014 was a significant step forward for the survival of the species in Cambodia. The Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Project (CCCP) team works with local community members in the Areng Valley to rescue, rear and release Siamese crocodiles. Since 2011, the CCCP has released 55 crocodiles back into the wild. Around half of these were donated by farmers or confiscated from illegal wildlife traders and reared by…Read more
Cambodia’s waters are home to an abundance of important habitats ranging from coral reefs and seagrass meadows to mangrove forests. These ecosystems support a rich variety of marine life, including many charismatic species such as Irrawaddy dolphins, hawksbill and green turtles. Cambodia’s marine environment plays an important socio-economic role; fishing and related activities are crucial for coastal economies, and fish is an essential part of people’s diet in Cambodia, accounting for over three quarters of the animal protein consumed. Unfortunately,…Read more