Around 50 officers and wildlife conservationists from China, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia gathered in Phnom Penh for a workshop intended as a forum to share information to help provide better protection for the Eld’s deer.
The species is now a rare and endangered one due to a loss of habitat to urbanisation as well as the expansion and intensification of agriculture. The workshop is being held from Tuesday to Thursday.
Bou Vorsak, Cambodia programme manager at BirdLife International, told The Post on Tuesday that there are only around 3,000 Eld’s deer left in Southeast Asia.
Their population in Cambodia and Laos is threatened and fragmented and is less than that in India and Myanmar. None have been found in Thailand and Vietnam. In China, Eld’s deer are protected in fenced-off nature reserves.
Vorsak said Cambodia does not have detailed studies on Eld’s deer, which were once wildly distributed across lowland dry forests in tropical Southeast Asia.
“To protect and preserve rare and endangered spices for future generations, we need to stop deforestation and hunting,” he said.
Data obtained by The Post from BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) revealed that between 2003 and 2006, about 300 Eld’s deer lived in Cambodian forests.
More than 50 Eld’s deer were found in lowland dry forest in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district, 100 in Mondulkiri province’s Srepok and Phnom Prich wildlife sanctuaries, 60 in Preah Vihear province’s Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary and 100 in Phnom Srok district’s Ang Trapeang Thmor Crane Reserve in Banteay Meanchey province.
Data from Ang Trapeang Thmor Crane Reserve which was surveyed early this year indicated the number of Eld’s deer saw a sharp decrease, said WCS country director Ken Sereyrotha on Tuesday.
“Our team conducted research early this year at Ang Trapeang Thmor [Crane] Reserve which revealed that there were only 30 Eld’s deer remaining in the area. Its rapid decline has caused major concerns and we demand that all relevant parties protect, preserve and restore this endangered species,” he said.
WWF Cambodia country director Seng Teak said: “Protecting and conserving forests and wildlife is not only the responsibility of a single person or organisation but that of everybody,” he said.
Dr Bosco Pui Lok Chan, head of Hong Kong’s Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, said Eld’s deer are facing major threats due to a loss of habitat and the lack of focus from governments, communities and conservationists.
“This workshop is a rare and timely opportunity for key stakeholders to sit in one room and discuss the various issues of Eld’s deer conservation and hopefully, come up with a tangible solution to turn the tide,” Dr Chan said.
Sarah Brook, an IUCN Coordinator, said Eld’s deer is a food source for carnivorous animals and has become endangered and a little-studied species, suffering from the lack of focus and conservation.
“We are very likely to see the further loss of deer species in Asia. Recovery is possible though, and hopefully through concerted and collaborative actions inspired by this workshop, we can reverse the decline of Eld’s deer,” Brook said.
During the three-day workshop, jointly organised by Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden and BirdLife International Cambodia Programme, participants were invited to visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre on Wednesday to gain experience in the conservation of endangered species from experts.