The government has assigned designated management zones in Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province to make the protected forest more manageable in the wake of a forest ranger being shot.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday signed a sub-decree designating 372,971 hectares of the forest into four management zones. These zones include core zones, conservation zones, sustainable-use zones and community zones. The move was praised by environmentalists, including WWF Cambodia.
“This sub-decree has a purpose to ensure effective management of the Srepok wildlife sanctuary and promote the participation of local communities,” Mr Hun Sen said in the sub-decree. “It will also promote the protection and conservation of natural resources, wildlife and the ecological system.”
The move follows the shooting of Srepok park ranger Cheng Chanty last week during an encounter with suspected poachers. Mr Chanty is still recovering in hospital.
Major General Lor Sokha, chief of provincial police, yesterday said police now have a lead on who fired the shot that injured Mr Chanty.
“We have come across some clues that could point us to the direction of the suspects, but we cannot detail this information because we are still working on this case,” Maj Gen Sokha said.
WWF Cambodia country director Seng Teak yesterday said in a statement that the designation of zones is a critical move in the protection of the forest’s biodiversity and indigenous communities.
“The approval of the zones will allow rangers to effectively enforce the Protected Area Laws and stop illegal land encroachment within the wildlife sanctuary,” he said. “More importantly, it is a cornerstone for securing an inviolate area for the Tiger Reintroduction programme.”
“We will work closely with government agencies so that the sub-decree can be implemented and enforced, while the forest itself is monitored,” Mr Teak added.
Mr Teak said forests are vital habitats for many endangered species of wildlife in Cambodia and protecting them is essential.
“Forests also provide natural resources, such as plants, honey and resin, to support the livelihoods of local community members,” he said.
Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra yesterday said the designation of zones will ensure effective management.
“After dividing the management zones, the ministry believes that the protection and conservation of natural resources in this area will be more effective and that forestry crime will be reduced,” Mr Pheaktra said.
According to the WWF statement, the wildlife sanctuary’s 373,000 hectares are home to globally endangered species, including the Asian elephant, leopard, ibis, crocodile and banteng.
It added that it was also home to tigers, noting that the government is preparing the site for its Tiger Reintroduction programme.
It noted that the forest also serves to be a crucial point for social and cultural development of indigenous communities.