The Ministry of Tourism aims to form partnerships with relevant stakeholders to boost the protection of natural resources in the country’s northeast and is looking to set up reserves for wild tigers to capitalise on opportunities to attract environmentally-minded local and international visitors.
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Thong Khon, the Minister of Tourism, told a workshop on ecotourism and wildlife held on Wednesday that the northeast is an area with significant tourist potential, with great biodiversity, including a number of endangered species.
“The Ministry of Tourism aims to develop the northeast, especially Mondulkiri, to make it one of the country’s major tourist draws, particularly for ecotourism and wildlife,” he said.
The Ministry of Environment recently started negotiations with a number of conservation organisations – including WWF Cambodia – to import tigers from India and release them in the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province.
In August, Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking during the National Forum on Protection and Conservation of Natural Resources, showed his support for plans to bring tigers into the kingdom from other countries in the region.
The government and WWF Cambodia plan to release a total of eight tigers in Mondulkiri province by 2022.
Mr Khon explained that the wild tiger is a symbol of national identity. However, in the last 100 years, the global tiger population has declined dramatically, as much as 97 percent by some estimates.
Only about 3,200 tigers are alive in the wild today, 70 percent of them in India.
“Sustainable wildlife conservation requires ample financial resources and only tourism can provide the necessary financial means to continue conservation operations,” he said.
“The Ministry of Tourism will cooperate with WWF Cambodia and the Ministry of Environment to make this work a success,” he added.
According to a 2007 report by the Ministry of Environment, only 10 to 15 tigers dwell in Cambodian forests. No sightings have been made in more than one year.