Gateway Gazette

Rare Footage of Wild Asian Elephants Highlights Success of Cambodia’s Largest Protected Forest

Rangers set up camera traps in the forest to record animal species within the Central Cardamom Protected Forest. © Jeremy Holden
Rangers set up camera traps in the forest to record animal species within the Central Cardamom Protected Forest. © Jeremy Holden

​Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Remarkable camera trap footage was released (in January) showing the largest group of wild Asian elephants captured on film in the Central Cardamom Protected Forest over the past decade. The footage shows at least 12 individual Asian elephants, including young, as they graze, interact and move through the forest. The footage debuts as Conservation International (CI) announces the creation of Cambodia’s first ever conservation trust fund for Central Cardamom Protected Forest (CCPF).

For over 14 years, Conservation International (CI) has worked closely with the Cambodian Government to protect this forest – critical to supporting the lives and livelihoods of 3.5 million people in the Cardamom Mountain range, and fisheries and agriculture downstream.

“Seeing a productive herd like this in the CCPF further confirms to us that this conservation program, Cambodia’s oldest and largest, is working,” said Tracy Farrell, Regional Director of CI’s Greater Mekong Program.

Wild Asian elephants in the Central Cardamom Protected Forest of Cambodia, 2015. © Cambodia HARVEST and Fauna and Flora International
Wild Asian elephants in the Central Cardamom Protected Forest of Cambodia, 2015. © Cambodia HARVEST and Fauna and Flora International

Asian Elephants once roamed from the middle east to Southeast Asia but now exist only in habitat fragments. The Cardamom Mountains hold one of the largest wild populations left in Southeast Asia although direct evidence of large herds in this protected area, which spans 401,313 hecatres is hard to come by due to their elusive nature” Asian Elephants, which migrate between 20-50km each year, require intact forest habitats to thrive. Threats such as hydropower development and agriculture are impacting the animals’ routes and causing increased conflict with humans as the animals raid crops. Seeing these 12 individuals demonstrates the effectiveness of the protected forest.

“The footage came at a great time in the protected forest’s history as today we launch an innovative trust fund created to sustainably finance the CCPF in perpetuity,” said Chris Stone of The Global Conservation Fund (GCF).

The Trust Fund was created by CI together with the Cambodian Forestry Administration (FA) and launched today with an initial US$2.5 million from the Global Conservation Fund and Daikin Industries. The funding goal is to raise US$10 million, which will generate enough capital to sustain the protected forest project in perpetuity. This cost includes ongoing FA enforcement, research and monitoring activities and community engagement.

“Protected forests are a fundamental solution to the challenge of forest loss and degradation in Cambodia. Illegal logging and wildlife poaching for trade and food, through to large scale agriculture and land clearing concessions are having devastating effects. The CCPF program aims to ensure no net loss of forest cover.” Said Bunra Seng, Country Director of CI Cambodia.

So far the protection efforts are tracking well as a 2012 independent review found this area to have only 2% forest loss compared to 15% in the 10km buffer around it in the period from 2006-2012.

Wild Asian elephants in the Central Cardamom Protected Forest of Cambodia, 2015. © Cambodia HARVEST and Fauna and Flora International
Wild Asian elephants in the Central Cardamom Protected Forest of Cambodia, 2015. © Cambodia HARVEST and Fauna and Flora International

Farrell advised that: “the Cardamom Mountains have an estimated value of around one billion USD per year in the goods and ecosystem services it provides to Cambodia – from timber, crops, forest carbon, non-timber forest products, biodiversity, water, to recreation value. Scientists estimate that these mountains sequester around 230 million metric tons of C02 (MtCO2) and, as such, represents Cambodia’s largest carbon asset. The CCPF alone sequesters over 190MtCO2  which roughly translates to taking 41.2 million cars off the road.” As reflected in the recent Paris Agreement on climate change, tropical forests provide immense benefits for our climate. Keeping them intact can help us capture carbon and can also help communities adapt to the impacts of a changing climate by securing freshwater resources and preventing erosion.

Additionally, Farrell noted the importance of the CCPF forest to communities; it directly supports some 30,000 people through provision of freshwater in a 5 km buffer zone region and another 100,000 people indirectly within a 5 km radius. The forest feeds into rivers that feed into the Tonle Sap Lake which, in turn, feeds all of Cambodia.

The Cardamom Mountains are known as one of the largest reservoirs of nature for Cambodia, home to approximately one-third of all endangered and rare species listed under the Cambodian Forestry Law, and 54 IUCN listed threatened species. These include the clouded leopard, Siamese crocodile, Asiatic black bear, pileated gibbon, and many rare plant species such as the Merkus Pine and unique orchids.

About Conservation International

Since 1987, Conservation International has been working to improve human well-being through the care of nature. With the guiding principle that nature doesn’t need people, but people need nature for food, water, health and livelihoods—CI works with more than 1,000 partners around the world to ensure a healthy, more prosperous planet that supports the well-being of people. Learn more about CI and the “Nature Is Speaking” campaign, and follow CI’s work on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Source Conservation International

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