Seng Neil, age 33, is a farmer living below the poverty line in the isolated village of Aphiwat, Pahal commune of Preah Vihear province. Although rice farming is his primary source of income, Neil also collects wild fruits and vegetables inside Kulen Promptep Wildlife Sanctuary to help feed his family of 7 and support his income.
“Previously, I was not aware of the importance of wildlife, and its protection. What I knew was wildlife could provide food for my family or be sold for cash. I used to poach wildlife, such as Red Muntjac, Wild Pig, monitor lizards, and birds for food and sale,” said Neil, a former poacher.
In 2013, I was invited to join a community awareness raising session organized by WCS. We learnt to understand the importance of forests and wildlife and, as a result I stopped poaching. In August 2016, WCS staff came to meet me and another villager and told us about a Sarus Crane nest which had been found by community wildlife rangers near my rice field. They hired us to guard that nest with cash paid in return. “We have since located the nest, day and night. We rotate every week and stay far enough away from the nest location, so as not to disturb the birds. I also tell other villagers not to go there to avoid disturbance. In mid September, over a month of incubation the eggs hatched, and the chicks were soon roaming around with their parents.” Sarus Crane chicks are precocial – capable of moving around on their own soon after hatching.
“I am delighted to accomplish my task and see the chicks leave the nest. I no longer need to poach wildlife or collect eggs for income, as I can make money from nest protection, and I tell my children not to poach, but protect wildlife because it is rare and endangered,” said Neil.
“When I was a poacher, I felt bad because I killed animals. But, now I am a protector, I feel good and am proud of the result. I think what I have achieved also benefits other people in the village.”