The World Wide Fund for Nature in Cambodia yesterday urged conservation groups to unite and protect elephants by battling illegal logging and wildlife hunting.
WWF Cambodia said that elephants play a crucial role in balancing ecosystems by maintaining biodiversity. It said that elephants continue to face extinction due to habitat destruction and conflict with humans, including poaching.
“Together we can save the Asian elephant by not eating bushmeat and by not using luxury wood,” it said.
Khum Diyon, director of a local elephant conservation organisation in Mondulkiri province, said there are about 70 elephants in Cambodia, including 40 in his province.
“We do not want to have people riding elephants, we want them to be free, so no oppression or riding them,” he said. “Our organisation only wants tourists to enjoy watching elephants from a distance.”
He said that wild elephants continue to face loss of habitat due to deforestation.
“Our people seem to be fighting with the elephants because people want to clear forestland for farming,” he said. “It has caused elephants to be displaced.”
Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Earlier this year, the ministry called for greater conservation to maintain the presence of endangered animals in Cambodia.
The ministry said at the time that Cambodia alone has offered to provide sanctuary for up to 600 elephants.
Wildlife conservation has become a hot issue in Southeast Asia over the past few years, prompting the international community to participate by raising funds.
The French embassy in April hosted a fundraising event to aid the conservation of elephants in the Cambodia.
Pierra-Yves Clais, vice president of the Airavata Elephant Conservation Project in Ratanakkiri province, created the event because he needed more funding to improve a project in Katieng forest.
“Cambodia owes too much to the elephants to simply forget about them,” he said at the event. “Khmer kings fought their battles on the backs of elephants, built their temples using the strength of elephants; the elephant is everywhere in the culture, traditions, history and art of the Khmer people.”
“But the reality is very grim,” he added. “The domesticated population is down to 72 animals and the wildlife population is thought to be around 200.”