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Tourism plunge threatens Cambodian wildlife

Tourism plunge threatens Cambodian wildlife

Rangers at work in Botum Sakor national park.

Wildlife conservation in southwest Cambodia could come to a halt in the next few weeks following the collapse of tourism in southeast Asia.

Cardamom Tented Camp in Botum Sakor national park has now set up a FundRazr page to support the Wildlife Alliance rangers who patrol the park.

Equipment, food and wages for the rangers, who seek out poachers and remove hunting traps, is usually provided in entirety by the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) and Cardamom Tented Camp, both of which depend on tourism for their income.

Cardamom Tented Camp is temporarily closed and the last guest checked out of the camp on March 30.

As of mid-May, all 14 rangers policing 18,000 hectares of forest in the national park are still operating and relying on dwindling funds from GTAEF. However, it’s anticipated that these funds will dry up by the end of May. This will leave the forest unprotected as rangers return home to their villages.

“We are extremely proud of the rangers’ efforts over the last six years,” said John Roberts, director of Elephants and Conservation at GTAEF. “They have all-but stamped out bushmeat poaching, the illegal wildlife trade and land grabbing on the concession. However… the rangers’ excellent work would almost immediately be reversed should patrolling stop in the next few weeks.”

He added that the FundRazr page is the last best hope for forest and wildlife protection in Botum Sakor over the next few months.

According to Cardamom Tented Camp manager Allan Michaud, who is still resident at the lodge, rangers’ patrols were vital for stopping illegal activities such as logging and hunting, both of which are lethal for species including pangolins, gibbons, deer and wild cats.

“Prior to the Covid shutdown, illegal hunting in Botum Sakor national park had declined by around 90% over the last five years,” he said. “That is now at risk. The sooner we secure income for the ranger patrols the better the survival chances of wildlife and habitat.”

Donations are guaranteed to go towards financing rangers’ income, equipment and food so they can continue wildlife protection patrols. Cardamom Tented Camp will offer those donating US$200 or more a free night on top of a two-night stay, valid until February 2022.

Cambodia is currently closed to international tourists and tourist visas, e-visas and visa-on-arrival are all suspended.


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