Around 1,000 luxury saplings including koki (Hopea odorata), popel (Shorea talura), kranhoung (Dalbergia cochinchinensis) and thnong (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) were recently planted in the Sorng Rukhavorn Forest Community Protected Area to mark the 23rd anniversary of its establishment.

The event took place in Koun Kriel commune of Oddar Meanchey province’s Samrong town, according to Venerable Tho Thou Ros, the head of the community.

The celebration saw the participation of approximately 300 people, including provincial authorities, Sorng Rukhavorn Forest committees from five villages and five communes, students and Buddhists from near and far.

This initiative aimed to replace seedlings planted last year that did not survive the early dry season of 2023. The planting took place on a 5ha site.

The saplings for this planting were sourced by the Cambodian Youth Network and Equitable Cambodia, according to Tho Thou Ros.

He explained that due to the extensive land area of the Sorng Rukhavorn Forest Community, their ambition is to cover all fields with trees. However, this plan requires time, and planting will be carried out progressively from year to year.

Thou Ros described the forest in Sorng Rukhavorn as encompassing brushwood, dense forest, semi-shade forest, and green brushwood forest, with numerous fields within it. While it is not degraded land, this is the natural composition of the forest.

He expressed his project's goal of planting trees throughout the entire forest, mentioning 1,000 trees were planted this year, following the previous year's planting of 6,000 trees.

Regarding the protection of the Sorng Rukhavorn forest, Thou Ros said that no one cuts or transports construction wood from the area. However, there had been instances of illegal logging of luxury woods during the Covid-19 period. Fortunately, since February, no illegal logging has been reported. However, wildlife crime remains a concern, with the community patrol team having removed 849 snares in 2022.

During the Sorng Rukhavorn Forest anniversary, the Sorng Rukhavorn committee has raised nearly 20 million riels ($5,000). These funds are allocated to support vital patrol activities, including the purchase of food, hammocks, mosquito nets, and sturdy shoes for the rainy season. Nevertheless, the community still lacks resources, particularly for physical infrastructure such as eco-tourism sites, camps, and headquarters, which have not been developed yet. The head of the community appealed to the authorities, residents of Oddar Meanchey province, and the youth to join efforts in preserving the forest and its rare animals.

Phuong Lina, director of the provincial environment department, acknowledged that while wildlife hunting remains a problem, regular patrols have significantly reduced wildlife crime, although exact figures have not yet been compiled. Recently, park rangers in Oddar Meanchey province encountered a trapped baby gaur, but it was successfully rescued and released.

"We have observed a significant decrease in crime due to our regular patrol mechanism, joint patrols, and provincial-level activities. Although we have not yet tallied the number of offences, we can see a substantial decrease compared to the same period last year," Lina said.