Fauna & Flora International celebrates 15 years of conservation in Cambodia

In November, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was honoured to host a visit by senior officials from the Cambodian Ministry of Environment led by His Excellency Dr Mok Mareth, Senior Minister and Minister of Environment.

The visit celebrated 15 years of successful collaboration between the ministry and FFI.

Dr Mareth is an aquatic biologist and was the driving force behind the creation of Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment. During his visit, he met with FFI’s Chief Executive Mark Rose, Asia-Pacific Regional Director Tony Whitten, and other members of the FFI team.

The delegates also had the chance to catch up with FFI’s Dr Jenny Daltry, who was awarded the Royal Order of Sahametrei (by decree of the King of Cambodia) in 2010 for her pioneering community conservation work.

Dr Mareth at Kew Gardens

In the Herbarium at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Dr Mareth examines type specimens of plants collected in Cambodia

During his trip, the Minister also met informally with students from the MPhil Conservation Leadership programme at the University of Cambridge, and paid an official visit to Kew Gardens. There, he found specimens collected by his staff (during joint expeditions with FFI) logged on the Herbarium database.

For FFI staff and university students, the highlight was a talk by His Excellency on ‘Creating protected areas in post-conflict Cambodia’. During the talk, Dr Mareth emphasised the importance of developing a comprehensive protected area system and the difficulties of balancing conservation with economic development.

Past, present and future: conservation in Cambodia

FFI has worked in Cambodia since 1996, supporting the government’s conservation work across the country. FFI aims to strengthen biodiversity conservation in Cambodia whilst developing sound governance and alleviating poverty.

To achieve this, FFI is focusing on raising national authorities’ institutional conservation capacity, and on engaging and empowering communities in local conservation.

Today, the Cambodia programme is FFI’s second largest in the Asia-Pacific region and is now expanding its remit to address emerging landscape-level threats in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is one of Asia-Pacific’s most biodiverse countries, and its forests harbour many threatened species that have disappeared from neighbouring countries,” said Dr Tony Whitten, Regional Director at FFI.

“To help protect this vital area, we are working with national authorities and local communities to improve monitoring, build good governance and legislation, and ensure stronger community involvement in conservation work,” he explained.

One of the emerging threats to Cambodia’s wildlife is the increasing interest from mining companies in Cambodia’s mineral resources.

During his visit, Dr Mareth spoke of his concern about this issue and discussed the role that NGOs such as FFI have to play in preventing and mitigating environmental damage from mineral extraction.

Pippa Howard, Director of FFI’s Business & Biodiversity programme took the opportunity to share details of FFI’s work with companies, which focuses on ensuring that biodiversity is on the corporate agenda, and that impacts are avoided or mitigated.

During the final dinner in Cambridge, Mark Rose presented the Minister with a gold Oryx badge. Just six of these exist, and they are given only to FFI’s closest partners.

Dr Mareth with FFI's Dr Tony Whitten

Dr Mok Mareth (wearing his gold Oryx badge) with FFI’s Dr Tony Whitten