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Struggling forests to become sanctuaries

The Venerable Bun Saluth (pictured), head of Sorng Rukhavoan community forest, and community members discovered illegally felled timber in their community forest in November 2017. Facebook
The Venerable Bun Saluth (pictured), head of Sorng Rukhavoan community forest, and community members discovered illegally felled timber in their community forest in November 2017. Facebook

Struggling forests to become sanctuaries

Two community forests in Oddar Meanchey province – considered “hot spots” for forestry and wildlife crimes – are set to become a new wildlife sanctuary at the request of provincial authorities.

The newly established Sorng Rukhavorn Wildlife Sanctuary consists of 30,254 hectares spanning across Sorng Rukhavorn and Rattanak Rokha community forests, as well as area flooded by the Stung Treng II hydroelectric dam in Anlong Veng.

The sanctuary was created under a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen last Thursday and made public on the Ministry of Environment’s Facebook page on Monday.

Phuong Lina, director of the provincial Environment Department, said his department and other provincial authorities had made the initial request to change the area to a protected wildlife sanctuary as the area is home to “rare and luxurious wood and endangered animals”, but faces threats.

“Crimes [continue] happening in the area and it is a hotspot for both forestry and wildlife crimes,” Lina said.

He claimed villagers from Cha Thmey village in Anlong Veng district committed the majority of the crimes, especially at night. Last year there were 10 cases involving forestry crimes in the area forwarded to court, all of which are still pending, Lina said.

Despite the threats to the area, there are no permanent environmental rangers at the newly designated sanctuary due to a lack of resources, he said, though he expects there will be in the “long term”.

Over the past year, eight environmental rangers from the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary and the Banteay Chhmar Nature Protection Area, as well as two provincial officials, have been taking turns patrolling the area. Chea Sam Eng, the head of protected areas at the Ministry of Environment, did not respond to a request for comment about potential deployment of rangers.

The Venerable Bun Saluth, head of Sorng Rukhavoan community forest, said he appreciated the new designation for the area, as his community was hopeful its natural resources would be protected for future generations.

“The establishment of a wildlife sanctuary is good for the protection of the forest for hundreds of more years as has been my intention,” he said.

The Ministry of Environment made the final decision to establish the protected wildlife sanctuary, Lina said. Chea Sam Ang, in charge of protected areas for the ministry, didn’t return a request for comment on whether the ministry will deploy permanent rangers to the new sanctuary.

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