Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Wildlife Alliance (WA), BirdLife International, Conservation International (CI), Flora and Fauna International (FFI) and The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) have expressed their strong support for the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC) decision through Ministry of Environment (MoE) to designate almost one million hectares of new protected areas in Prey Lang, Kravanh Khang Tbong, Prey Preah Roka, Prey Siem Pang Khang Lech and Prey Veunasai.
This decision reflects MoE’s strong commitment to an effective long-term solution to conserve Cambodia’s forests and wildlife for current and future generations. This has been possible after the decision by Prime Minister Hun Sen in March 2016 to transfer the jurisdiction of all protected forests and areas to MoE.
“As international organizations committed to assisting Cambodia to protect its natural heritage, we express our strong support for recent actions by the Royal Government of Cambodia to designate almost 1 million hectares of new protected forest,” said Dr. Ross Sinclair, Country Director of WCS Cambodia.
“The designation of these new protected areas is an important first step in protecting these globally significant biodiversity areas from illegal activity as well as promoting the viability of the local communities that depend on these forests for their livelihoods.” He added.
On April 25, MoE organized a constructive meeting with all stakeholders to discuss the new protected areas, including setting boundaries and designations. The ministry is also working with all stakeholders to establish appropriate administrative and management arrangements for all its protected areas that engage all relevant parties.
“We support and encourage continuation of the transparent and participatory process by which the MoE is working with all stakeholders to develop these new protected areas including set the boundaries,” said Mr. Seng Bunra, Country Director of CI Cambodia.
“We particularly note that for new arrangements to succeed, local communities must be directly involved and have clear roles in all aspects of planning, monitoring, management and enforcement within these critical natural areas,” he added.
Political commitment and financial resources are needed to end illegal activity and establish effective management systems for protected areas involving all relevant parties, particularly those communities whose livelihoods are most closely linked to these important resources.
“We particularly support the MoE for its leadership in making the conservation of these areas – and all areas under its protection – a renewed priority of the Royal Government of Cambodia,” said Mr. Tuy Sereivathana, Country Director FFI.
“We are ready to cooperate with the Ministry of Environment and other institutions in whatever way possible to ensure the conservation of Cambodia’s precious forests and other natural resources,” said Mr. Chhith Sam Ath, Country Director of WWF Cambodia.
The five new protected areas fill important gaps in the conservation in corridor approach MOE is applying. “The new protected areas are important for conservation corridors” said Kalyan Hou, Country Program Coordinator of RECOFTC.
“But we should not forget the important roles of Community Forestry in securing rights of local community to equitably access and benefit from sustainable forest management. She added.