Prek Toal is located in the Tonle Sap Great Lake, one of the most productive and diverse fisheries systems in the world. It is a critical nursery ground for fish, providing 60% of Cambodia's protein intake. Prek Toal is the last significant breeding stronghold in mainland South-east Asia for many globally threatened and near-threatened large waterbirds species. Within the region it is the only remaining breeding site for two globally threatened species: Spot-billed Pelican and Milky Stork.
However, this important area for waterbirds and biodiversity protection is increasingly under threat. Illegal clearance of flooded habitat and fishing, overharvesting of the waterbirds, and egg and chick collection posed serious threats to Prek Toal’s waterbirds and valuable biodiversity. Without action, these illegal activities would ruin the Prek Toal and cause the loss of key resources.
In late 1990s, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in partnership with Ministry of Environment began working to protect Prek Toal Core Area through nest and flooded forest protection. Former bird hunters and egg collectors were turned into nest guardians, and the waterbirds colony grew rapidly habitat protection, particularly protection of dry-season streams, has led to increases in fish populations and the return of two species of otter.
In recognition of the incredible biological, social and economic value of the site, Prek Toal Core Area was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (also known as a ‘Ramsar Site’) by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in December 2015. This recognition means that Prek Toal becomes Cambodia’s fourth Ramsar Site.
Mr. Long Kheng, Director of Prek Toal Core Area with the Ministry of Environment, expressed his delighted and appreciate to see Prek Toal core area become Ramsar Site. “Prek Toal is a unique area that is rich of biodiversity and waterbirds. It is deserved recognition from national and international level.”
“This recognition is welcome news for all Cambodians and the world. It reflects strong commitment and efforts made by everyone, including Ministry of Environment, WCS, local authorities and communities and other stakeholders,” said Mr. Long Kheng. “It provides a stable habitat to many globally significance, endangered waterbirds species and other key mammal species such as Smooth-coated and Hairy-nosed Otters which have been confirmed by recently camera traps survey, and will attract more tourists to visit Prek Toal, allowing villagers to generate more income.”