With “World Ranger Day” approaching on July 31, the Ministry of Environment is highlighting efforts by Cambodian rangers to protect the nation’s natural resources with an outreach campaign that includes tales of their heroism in the line of duty as well as profiles of active rangers and details they’ve chosen to share about their personal lives.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post on July 28 that the ministry will use World Ranger Day this year to honour the Cambodian rangers who were killed or injured in the line of duty while protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.

“In the past eight years, two rangers were killed and many others were injured on missions for the cause of the environment and our natural resources,” he said.

Cambodia first observed World Ranger Day in 2017 with a ceremony attended by government officials, representatives of international conservation organisations, Buddhist monks and students, among others.

The purpose of these events is to raise public awareness about the role of forest rangers in Cambodia and to urge the public to assist the rangers with protecting, managing and conserving natural resources and the environment in a sustainable manner.

“The ministry plans to issue certificates of commendation to our best rangers this year,” he said.

Pheaktra added that the ministry wants to show how much it values and appreciates the rangers, to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of protecting the environment and to encourage the public to help the rangers defend Cambodia’s natural resources.

He said the ministry is trying to encourage more women to enlist in the rangers, as currently there are only 42 out of a total of 1,200 rangers deployed across the 75 protected natural areas and biodiversity corridors which cover 7.3 million hectares of land in 21 provinces.

Environmental activist Kroeung Tola said the rangers, local officials and communities in and around the protected areas had all made efforts to defend nature from the likes of loggers or trappers, but they were not fully empowered yet to perform the duties necessary to crack down hard on natural resource crimes.

“I’ve requested that the ministry give more power to these rangers, local officials and communities so that they can do what’s right and conserve our natural resources and forests,” he said.

Vang Monika is one of the 42 female rangers in Cambodia. Monika, who works for the department of environment in Ratanakkiri province, said one factor motivating her to serve as a ranger was her desire to help conserve Cambodia’s biodiversity to boost development of the eco-tourism industry, which has the potential to help lift many rural communities out of poverty.

“I face a lot of challenges performing my duties as a ranger because our numbers are few and the size of the area we must protect is huge. And many people don’t seem to fully understand the laws related to conservation and the protected areas,” she said.

Monika called on the public to learn more about the work of protecting and conserving nature and for those with a passion for environmental causes who believe they can handle the rigors of life as a ranger, both men and women, to consider becoming one.

According to a report issued by the environment ministry, in the first six months of this year rangers conducted 14,422 patrols of protected natural areas and biodiversity corridors and intervened in 4,238 cases of natural resource crimes, confiscating 2,462 chainsaws, 182 trucks, 308 power tillers, 336 motorcycles, 24 tractors and 1,260 cubic metres of wood.