Officials, scientists and conservationists from six countries yesterday gathered for a three-day conference in the capital to share their experience in conserving the endangered Eld’s deer.
About 50 people from Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, where the species is found, will share their conservation management methods and research findings to develop effective conservation strategies for the highly threatened species, an official said.
Bou Vorsak, Cambodia programme manager with BirdLife International, said yesterday that the Eld’s deer in Cambodia faces the same threats as those in the other countries, noting its population is declining rapidly.
He said that the meeting will enable them to share information on how to conserve the deer and work out what each country needs to do.
“At this workshop, we will discuss how we can work together to conserve Eld’s deer for next three years, after which we will meet again,” Mr Vorsak said, noting that he did not know the exact number of Eld’s deer in Cambodia.
“We have to make more of an effort to address the root causes of the decline; otherwise, this important species will disappear from the region, including Cambodia,” he added.
The estimated global population of Eld’s deer in the wild is around 3,000.
The Eld’s deer population, once widely seen across lowland dry forests in tropical Southeast Asia, has been greatly decimated by habitat loss and hunting.
Mr Vorsak expressed concern the Eld’s deer will become extinct in Cambodia.
“Because of this concern, we organised this workshop to find ways to protect and conserve the Eld’s deer,” he said.
Wild deer populations have been exterminated in Thailand and Vietnam, while most Eld’s deer remaining in China are protected in fenced nature reserves.
The remaining populations in Cambodia, Laos and India are also highly threatened and fragmented. Therefore, reinvigorated and collaborative conservation efforts and increased public awareness are urgently needed.
In Cambodia, in the first decade of the 21st century, the species declined by 90 percent or more. The Indochinese subspecies of Eld’s deer is considered highly threatened.
Besides two locations in Laos, the species only remains in northern and eastern lowland forests in Cambodia where densities are worryingly low.
Sarah Brook, IUCN Red List Coordinator of the IUCN-SSC Deer Specialist Group, said in a media release yesterday that the deer are facing a mixed future globally.
She noted that in parts of Europe and the US they are so numerous, as a result of predator removal, and are causing damage to habitats, resulting in their populations being culled.
She also said that despite their importance as prey animals, and for subsistence needs of local communities in some areas, in Asia they are among the most endangered and least studied species, and suffer from a lack of focused conservation efforts.
“Consequently unless the situation changes we are, unfortunately, very likely to see the loss of further deer species in Asia. Recovery is possible though and hopefully through concerted and collaborative actions inspired by this workshop we can reverse the decline of Eld’s deer,” said Ms Brook.