About 58 endangered aquatic species in Cambodia face extinction if more effort is not made to protect them.
Ouk Vibol, director of the Fisheries Conservation Department of the Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Administration, said in an interview with a local media outlet yesterday the population of these species is continuing to decline despite there being laws to conserve them.
He said 29 of the aquatic creatures are freshwater species and the other 29 are saltwater ones. Of these, 14 species are considered as critically endangered, including the Irrawaddy dolphin and the Royal Turtle.
“For example, the Royal Turtle are classified as a globally threatened species because it takes them 30 years to reproduce and normally they can only live in specific areas,” Mr Vibol said. “If their habitats are destroyed or harmed, we won’t find these species anywhere else in Cambodia.”
“Next year, we also plan to review and conduct studies on other types of animals to find out whether their populations are also declining. If they face threats, it will require them being listed as endangered species,” he added.
Mr Vibol said the authorities need to conduct research into threats the animals face and find out the exact locations of their habitats in order to declare such as protected areas.
“We also need to publicise the information to the local community and invite public participation in efforts to ban poaching,” he said. “In some cases, we have to locate hatching sites in order to take the eggs and nurture them till they hatch and reach adulthood before we release them into the wild.”
Recently, the Fisheries Conservation Department released 80 adult Royal Turtles back into the wild after rescuing the eggs from poachers.
The Royal Turtle is listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as being “critically endangered”.
Mr Vibol said people are aware of the need to protect animals such as the Royal Turtle and Irrawaddy dolphin. However, other endangered aquatic species, including the Mekong giant catfish and giant carp are still being hunted.
“This is why our authorities have to strictly monitor conservation areas and punish those who illegally poach the endangered species,” he said.
Along the Tonle Sap River, there are 58 protected areas for aquatic animals. These areas are strictly patrolled by local authorities and fisheries officials.
Organisations such as WWF, the National Wildlife Federation and WCS Cambodia also participate in efforts to protect endangered animals and increase their populations.
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