Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary

Nestled deep in the heart of Cambodia lies Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, a remarkable testament to the resilience of nature and the power of community-led conservation. Here, amidst lush forests and rolling hills, our efforts to protect some of the world's most rare and endangered species have earned us a reputation as a leading example of innovative conservation practices in Cambodia. 

A Story of Conservation and Community

Located in the foothills of the Annamite Mountains, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is a stunning and ecologically significant landscape that has become a model for conservation in Cambodia. Established in 2002 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, this protected area covers 292,690 hectares and is managed by the Ministry of Environment with support from key partners.

Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is not only a beautiful landscape but a crucial habitat for over 950 recorded species, including rare and endangered ones. The sanctuary is also home to several Indigenous Bunong communities who have relied on the forest for their livelihoods, culture, and spirituality for generations.

Through a combination of community engagement, sustainable development initiatives, and effective conservation strategies, the sanctuary has become a leading example of successful conservation efforts in the region. Here, we provide a comprehensive look at the biodiversity and ecological significance of Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, its challenges, and the innovative strategies employed to ensure its protection. We'd like to invite you to learn more about the sanctuary's uniqueness and its role in promoting conservation efforts in Cambodia.

From Carbon Credits to Zoning: Our Comprehensive Impact

Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is more than just a conservation success story. Over the years, our impact has been significant and wide-ranging. We've supported the first legal protection of the site, spearheaded Cambodia’s first data-driven zonation process, and developed one of Cambodia’s largest REDD+ projects. We have sold the equivalent of 20 million tonnes of carbon, resulting in over $3,000,000 to support protected area management and community development. Our innovative benefit-sharing mechanism, Cash for Communities, has delivered $1,000,000 to date, empowering local communities with the resources to invest in their long-term development goals.

Our commitment to the community has been unwavering - we've helped establish Indigenous Community Land Titles (ICTs), supported health care through mobile clinics with CIAI, and launched community-based ecotourism projects, such as Jahoo Gibbon Camp and the Elephant Valley Project. Our law enforcement efforts have resulted in successful legal challenges and thousands of kilometers of patrols to protect the area's endangered species. And the list goes on - from discovering new species to robust population monitoring data, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary continues to impact the fight against deforestation and wildlife loss.

A Haven for Rare and Endangered Species

Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is a unique and vibrant ecosystem with over 950 recorded species, including 15 that were discovered in the past decade. It has the highest recorded bird diversity in Cambodia, with over 350 species observed, including 21 woodpecker species, making it a globally significant site for Picadae diversity. KSWS is also home to the world's largest known populations of Black-shanked douc langur and Yellow-cheeked crested gibbons, and it is especially important for monkeys, lesser apes, and lorises, with seven primate species living within its protected boundaries. However, these species are threatened by habitat loss, illegal hunting, and other factors. Nevertheless, robust monitoring and diligent conservation efforts are helping to protect these vital species, and we are committed to safeguarding this unique and valuable ecosystem for future generations. 

The measures being taken to protect the sanctuary's biodiversity include habitat restoration, wildlife monitoring, and community engagement. Through these efforts, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary remains a haven for rare and endangered species and a vital ecological corridor in Southeast Asia.

Equitable and Inclusive Conservation

The conservation of Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary is a collaborative and equitable effort that empowers the more than 18,000 people living in or adjacent to the sanctuary and ensures the protection of the ecosystem. This includes efforts to increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the impact of human activities on the sanctuary. Community engagement is an essential strategy, with programs focused on sustainable livelihoods and alternative income generation that provide economic benefits while supporting conservation. Our conservation efforts prioritize equitable and inclusive management of the protected area, including securing Indigenous Community  Land Titles (ICTs) that grant legal land tenure rights for the Bunong people.

Navigating Challenges for a Thriving Ecosystem


Tackling Illegal Land Clearance and Logging Land clearance for cash crops and logging for timber pose a significant threat, leading to forest degradation and loss of habitats for wildlife. We are demarcating land, supporting community-led forest patrols, and sustainable agriculture initiatives. These efforts have reduced the incidence of illegal activities, protected habitats, and promoted sustainable forest use while increasing awareness of the importance of preserving natural habitats.

Balancing Prosperity and Preservation Unsustainable development poses a challenge to conserving natural resources and biodiversity, as it can lead to deforestation and habitat destruction. However, through our sustainable development initiatives, we have demonstrated that conservation and economic development can coexist. For example, our work promoting non-forest timber products and sustainable resource management has provided alternative income sources for KSWS communities while preserving natural resources.

Taking Action Against Illegal Hunting Illegal hunting poses a significant threat to wildlife, with wire snares causing the painful deaths of animals. We remove snares, bolster government enforcement, and launch community anti-snaring campaigns to combat this. Although our efforts have reduced illegal hunting activities, changing mindsets and reducing dependence on wildlife for sustenance remains a complex and ongoing challenge.

Building Resilience to Climate Change The effects of climate change, including drought and flooding, pose a significant challenge to local communities and biodiversity. As a vast storehouse of forest carbon, forests in KSWS are crucial to mitigating global impacts and protecting frontline communities. We prioritize efforts to protect the forest and monitor the effects of climate change, including hydrological and topographic changes, to ensure the continued health and resilience of the ecosystem.


Charting a Sustainable Future for Keo Seima

Looking to the future, the Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia remains committed to our core conservation and community engagement values. Our focus is on long-term sustainability, working in partnership with local communities and the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure that conservation and economic development go hand in hand.

We are also committed to advancing our research efforts with ongoing monitoring and innovative assessment of the sanctuary's biodiversity and ecosystem health. This will help us better understand the sanctuary's ecology and inform our conservation strategies.

Through our work, we aim to set an example for sustainable conservation efforts that balance ecological protection, economic development, and community well-being. We are dedicated to ensuring that Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary remains a model for conservation efforts in Cambodia and beyond.

Our Partners in Conservation

We want to express our gratitude to the many individuals and organizations who have contributed to the success of Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary's conservation efforts. We are particularly grateful to our valued partners, including the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and local communities.

Together, we are working towards a shared vision of a sustainable and thriving future for the sanctuary and the people who call it home.

©Filip Agoo & Everland
Photo Credit: ©Filip Agoo & Everland

An Update From the Field



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