Siamese crocodile. Credit Heather Paul on flickr
According to the Phnom Penh Post the Cambodian Ministry of Environment is planning to turn some parts of Cambodia’s wildlife sanctuaries located in the Lower Mekong Dry Forest Eco-region, part of the Eastern Plains, into eco-tourism destinations. They hope that the foreign currency and tourists attracted to the area will encourage locals to protect the wildlife and habitat in the area.
Some areas have already been identified as suitable for eco-tourism and have received support from the local communities to protect wildlife and habitat with the promise of a proportion of future tourism spend to be sent their way.
The area sits in the extreme east of Cambodia and access to the area is not easy. Due to the location it is likely that any future tourism will be relatively high-value rather than mass tourism.
Much of the communities in the area live in poverty and are reliant on catching and eating wildlife and illegal logging. However the idea of the project is to ensure that the communities can earn far more from tourism activities, including accommodation, food and tours, than they would from other activities and would be reliant on the survival of wildlife and habitat for this income.
“The official government policy is to transform a portion of the protected habitat areas into sustainable and responsible eco-tourist attractions.””
“Eco-tourism will allow people to earn far more income by providing tourism-based services than they can ever hope to make from illegal logging or hunting.”Neth Pheaktra, Cambodia Secretary of State and Spokesman for the Environment Ministry
Camera traps in the region have pictured herds of banteng, an endagered species with just 850 believed to be in Cambodia, a leopard which is even rarer plus the more common wild boar.
Other animals that inhabit the area include the giant ibis, white-shouldered ibis, red muntjac deer, gaur, sambar and Eld’s deer. Along the Srepok River visitors can see monkeys like the black-shanked douc and huge majestic birds including the hornbill. Siamese crocodiles may also been seen along the river and its banks.
“This type of forest is perfect for eco-tourism because we can watch animals from a distance there and still get amazing views and photos of them without interfering with their lives.”
“Visitors to get to see the rare giant ibis and white-shouldered ibis from a distance that is close enough to appreciate their beauty, but not so close that it disturbs the birds.”Neth Pheaktra, Cambodia Secretary of State and Spokesman for the Environment Ministry
Protection of the natural habitat is essential for the success of the wildlife that will always be the primary attraction for tourists. Seng Teak, the Country Director of WWF-Cambodia, states that food is the first necessity for any animal habitat.
“Rivers and streams cut through the landscape here providing an abundant source of fresh water and that’s always important because water is the only resource that is needed by all known forms of life on our planet, so the second necessity is met.”
“The third necessity is shelter for the animals. I don’t mean barns or little houses, obviously. By that I mean natural habitats to which they are biologically suited and which affords them protection from predators, especially humans. The animals need to be able to live peacefully without worrying about snares, guns and chainsaws.”Seng Teak, Country Director of WWF-Cambodia
The project will not bear fruit overnight and must be given time to succeed and for animal numbers to increase and become stable. The biggest threat to the area and the success of the project, are humans.
“If we could build a fence around the protected zone and keep all humans out, it would become a safe haven for the wildlife. We could gather animals from other regions and release them in the zone to increase breeding.”
“Some rare animals would probably be saved from extinction by doing this – particularly those that we have trouble locating at all now such as sambar, Eld’s deer, tigers and other big cats.”Seng Teak, Country Director of WWF-Cambodia
This article is based on an original article published in The Phnom Penh Post (external link).
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