Thursday, December 18, 2008

Government plans to Expand Conservational Habitats for Wild Life


The Cambodian government has plans to establish conservation habitats for aquatic birds and other animal species to keep them safe from human hunters, according to Thuk Kroeun Vutha, Secretary of State at the Environment Ministry.

“To preserve bird and animal species the government has plans to expand conversation areas to protect natural biodiversity in pristine environments in provinces across the country,” the Secretary of State said during introductory remarks made during the opening of a Workshop. This workshop was held under the banner “Sustainable Control of Aquatic Birds and their Habitats”. It was prepared by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) with help from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries (MoAFF).

The Secretary of State said that according to the master plan, the areas under consideration include stretches of bank surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake and Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Ramsar, located in Stung Treng province.

He continued that Cambodia is a country rich in bird and animal species, as well as exploitable natural resources. These resources are all worthy of preservation for future generations of Cambodians.

“I think that if we can preserve all the bird and animal species and their habitats, then we can attract more tourists to these conservation areas. Apart from this, we can generate work for our people and reduce poverty in Cambodia,” he said.

In recent years, the MoE and MoAFF have collaborated with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to work on conservation projects through the Biodiversity Conservation Project and other forestry protection projects.

He continued that as a result of all the hard work, about 200 species of bird had been found in Cambodia including 10 on the list of critically endangered species, living in wetland areas and naturally protected sites located at Tonle Sap and Ramsar in Stung Treng province.

With a view to generating more support and cooperation from other countries in the region, his ministry has officially registered as a member of the “Partnership for the East-Asian Australian Flyways”. Now Cambodian airspace is a recognized flyway for all bird species in the East-Asian Region.

Nowadays there are over 250 bird species with over 50 million individual birds following routes set out in the “Partnership for the East-Asian Australian Flyways”, said Vutha.

Man Phimean, Chief of the Administration and Forest Protection Office in the MoAFF, said that in order to conserve the wildlife for the next generation people, his government has established conservation areas.

These protected sites such as the Protected Forest for Conservation of Wildlife and Gene Resources covers 429,438 hectares in Mundul Kiri province. A further 190,027 hectares of land around Preah Vihear has also been turned into a wildlife reserve. The Central Cardamom Range claims 401,313 hectares of reservation land, and the Biodiversity Conservation Project has 670,000 hectares in Mondulkiri and Kratie Provinces.

“I note that birds and wild animals will increase in Cambodia after the establishment of conservation areas,” he told the Cambodia Weekly during a personal interview. “We are going to take measures and legal action against hunting and illegal logging in areas where the wildlife finds shelter,” he said.

According to a research conducted this year by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, there are hundreds of species of birds, snakes and other wild animals in Cambodia. These animals fall into one of three categories. The first is “Critically Endangered Species” covering 16 bird and reptile species and 27 mammal species. The second category refers to “Rare Species” covering 45 bird and 4 snake species. The third category refers to animal species under no current threats with hundreds of Cambodia’s native species falling into this category.

Phimean said that so far, his authority confiscated a total of 17,211 birds and wild animals from smugglers in provinces across the country. The birds and wild animals had been released into different zoos and other protected forest areas in Cambodia. He said the authority also seized a total of 41, 770 hectares of land and 230, 732 hectares of forestry land from local forest accession companies, combining this land with existing reservation areas.

He also noted that hunters who killed animals on the “Critically Endangered Species” list can expect up to a ten year prison sentence, with five years for those convicted of killing animals on the “Rare Species” list. Conservation Laws provide for jail terms of up to one year for hunters of animals on the “Normal Species” list.

Kong Kim Sreng, Project Coordinator of the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN), said that due to the civil war, illegal logging and hunting in Cambodia, many critically endangered or rare species have been hunted to the point of extinction.

However, he noted that the number of birds and wild animals had increased after the Cambodian government and related NGOs formulated the Biodiversity Conservation Project and Protected Forest Resources and Wildlife Conservation.

“I hope that if all people increase their awareness of the importance of Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation and join together to establish the conservational zones, we can conserve the natural habitat for birds and wild animals well beyond the next 15 years,” he said.

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