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Urgent action needed to protect ungulate species in Cambodia

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Despite the increased law enforcement efforts by the Royal Government’s Ministry of Environment, WWF and all partners, ungulate populations in the Srepok and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuaries have suffered a dramatic decline in the past decade, reveals a joint report of the Ministry of Environment and WWF on the status of ungulates.

The report also highlights the urgent need of unprecedented and innovative solutions to reverse the decline.

The results from a decade-long (2010-2020) ungulate monitoring programme in both wildlife sanctuaries demonstrated that Banteng, Muntjac, and Wild Pig populations have decreased by 72%, 52%, and 18% respectively when compared with the baseline population estimates from 2010-2011.

The monitoring efforts also documented very low encounter rates of Eld’s Deer, Gaur and Sambar throughout the surveys, and suggests that only small and fragmented populations of these ungulate species still live in the landscape.

“The decline rates highlighted in the report is a wake-up call for us all, but presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the declining trends,” says H.E. Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State and Spokesman to the Ministry of Environment, adding that the decline could have been worse if without the law enforcement and protected area actions thanks to the tireless patrols and protected area law enforcement efforts by the rangers from the Provincial Department of Environment of the Ministry of Environment, community patrolling teams, provincial authorities and WWF.

Neth Pheaktra also described that although the decline of ungulates has been observed in the Srepok and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuaries, the population numbers of some of these ungulate species have increased or are stable in some other protected areas.
Cambodia is not a unique situation. Wildlife populations have declined globally over the past 50 years with an unprecedented average 68% drop in wildlife population sizes on land and in water in less than half a century across the world since 1970.

Historical hunting, and an unprecedented current poaching and snaring crisis fuelled by the illegal wildlife trade, is the primary cause of the severe depletion of ungulate species in Cambodia’s Srepok and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Although the ‘Population Status of Ungulates’ report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope to save these wild animal species from extinction. But without immediate and innovative actions to counteract the key threats and their drivers, the biodiversity will continue to decline rapidly and ultimately disappear.

Mr Seng Teak, WWF Country Director, says that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level to take immediate collective conservation actions.

“The scientific findings in the report highlight the urgent need for comprehensive and innovative solutions in order to reverse the wildlife decline, while calling for better ways of managing, using and sharing natural resources,” he elaborates.

The Ministry of Environment and WWF are working closely with local communities, and partners on developing intensive conservation measures to reduce poaching, and strengthen law enforcement.

The Ministry of Environment and WWF are currently studying the possibilities for the implementation of a comprehensive ungulate recovery programme, urgently required to reverse the declining population trends, while tackling the root cause of wildlife trade.

Ungulates are members of a diverse clade of primarily large mammals with hooves. These include odd-toed ungulates such as horses, rhinoceroses and tapirs, and even-toed ungulates such as cattle, pigs, giraffes, camels, sheep, deer, and hippopotamuses.

Cetaceans are also even-toed ungulates, although they do not have hooves. Most terrestrial ungulates use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to support their body weight while moving. Heng Panha – AKP

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