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 support coexistance. The group also focuses on increasing government capacity, gathering vital information through camera trapping, genetic population studies, habitat and threat mapping and developing cooperation with other elephant range states.
The illegal wildlife trade is a major threat to elephants globally and in Cambodia. Initial surveys indicate that Cambodia is emerging as a destination for ivory, which is openly sold in markets and shops in the major cities. We are gathering data on the ivory trade, including partnering with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to build the national capacity for genetically testing ivory to determine its origin. Hunting of animals using snares for the bushmeat trade is directly threatening elephants, as young elephants have been killed by wire snares set in the forest to capture wild pigs and deer. In order to combat this, we are also developing a behavioural change campaign to reduce the demand for wild meat.
We are grateful for financial support from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the UK government's Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Asian elephants require vast habitats to thrive, so adequate landscape-level management and close cooperation with local communities are essential to conserve the species’ dwindling populations. In turn, this approach benefits countless other species in areas such as the megadiverse forests of the Cardamom Mountains. The adoption by Cambodia’s government of the country’s first elephant action plan, prepared with technical support from FFI, provides renewed momentum for coordinated conservation action.”
The Asian elephant is under even greater threat of extinction than its African counterpart.
Illegal wildlife trade has become a high-profile issue receiving global media attention, not least because of its devastating effect on populations of rhinos, elephants and other charismatic wildlife.