The Environment Ministry in cooperation with Fauna & Flora International has adopted Cambodia’s first-ever action plan to save the Asian elephant from extinction.
A joint media release by the ministry and FFI yesterday said the General Directorate of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection with technical support from the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group worked with national and international stakeholders over the past few years to compile this first-ever conservation action plan for the species in Cambodia.
It said that in Cambodia, between 400 and 600 Asian elephants are thought to remain, distributed mainly in the Cardamom Mountain in the southwest of the country and the eastern plains of Mondulkiri province, with smaller numbers in other parts of country, such as the northern plains.
“Habitat degradation has resulted in fragmented population, negatively affecting the species’ long-term viability. Elephant calves have also been found to be under pressure from snares, affecting the population recovery. These concerns have led to the development of this 2020-2029 action plan to address them,” the press release said.
Meas Sophal, GDANCP director general of the Ministry of Environment said the action plan aims to strengthen management of Asian elephants with involvement from all stakeholders, so that their populations are protected and able to recover, not least in the protected areas and biodiversity conservation network, which cover 7.2 million hectares or 40 percent of the country’s surface, ultimately safeguarding this cultural heritage icon for future generations.
“We developed this action plan, the first for Asian elephants in Cambodia and a landmark achievement that will in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, guide effective protection of the country’s most iconic species,” he added.
Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra, said according to the study, the number of wild elephants in Cambodia as well as in other countries in Southeast Asia, has declined dramatically in the last few decades due to illegal hunting, destruction of elephant habitats and conflicts between elephants and humans.
“In order to protect and preserve elephants in Cambodia, the government has collaborated with partner organisations, to put in place a strategic plan by strengthening the efficiency on the protection of natural resources, forests which are the habitats and feeding grounds of the elephants, searching for traps put by people in the forest, strengthening law enforcement against the perpetrators and bannig wildlife poaching,” he said.
Khun Diyon, director of a local elephant conservation organisation in Mondulkiri province, said he supports the ministry’s action plan and expects it will help protect and conserve Asian elephants in Cambodia.
“The current challenge for elephants is the spread of people who have entered the forests, affecting the habitats of the elephants and also causing conflicts between humans and elephants,” he said. “A few days ago, four elephants appeared to eat villagers’ crops and the villagers caught and kept the animals.”
“We went to rescue the elephants by offering compensation to the people. I support the ministry’s conservation planning mechanism and will participate in the conservation of the elephants.”
The Asian elephant is under severe pressure throughout its range and it is classified as endangered on the IUCN red list, meaning that it faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild.