NEW YORK (MARCH 17, 2010) – The Government of Cambodia has announced that it will protect six of the largest remaining tracts of lowland grassland in Southeast Asia. The wildlife-rich sites – located in and around Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplain – contain unique seasonally flooded grasslands that form a refuge for many globally threatened birds. The grasslands provide a fishing, grazing, and deep-water rice farming resource for local communities.
The six sites – one in Siem Reap province and five in Kampong Thom province – comprise 76,996 acres (31,159 hectares) of habitat. While these sites were partially protected by a provincial conservation order, they remained vulnerable to land-clearing and dam-building activities associated with large-scale commercial rice production. The new designations empower staff from Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to prevent such harmful activities.
The designation of the protected areas is the result of work done by WCS in collaboration with Cambodia’s Forestry and Fisheries Administrations, along with local governments and community stakeholders, to strengthen natural resource management in the protected areas.
As part of that effort, WCS has sourced funds and provided technical advice and management support. Other partners involved in this effort include the Centre d’Etude et de Développement Agricole Cambodgien (CEDAC), the Sam Veasna Center (SVC), BirdLife International in Indochina and the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), and the University of East Anglia.
“Recognizing the importance of these sites as part of Cambodia’s unique natural heritage shows the national government’s great commitment to the conservation of some of the country’s valued landscapes,” said WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven Sanderson.
Among the species that will benefit from the designation is the endangered Bengal florican – a large ground-nesting bird whose global population likely numbers less than 1,300 – more than half of which live in Cambodia. While florican habitat benefits from the traditional low-intensity agricultural practices such as seasonal burning, plowing, planting, and harvesting, illegal commercial rice farming destroys its habitat, forcing floricans into ever-shrinking areas. The new declaration represents the strongest step Cambodia has taken to date to protect the habitat of this and other species living in the protected areas – including Sarus cranes, storks, ibises and rare eagles.
The collaborative project has been supported by grants from: Fondation Ensemble; the IUCN Netherlands Ecosystem Grants Program; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders – Critically Endangered Animal Conservation Fund; the UNDP/GEF-funded Tonle Sap Conservation Project; WCS Trustee Ms. Eleanor Briggs; the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, administered through BirdLife International in Indochina and which is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement; Conservation International; the Global Environment Facility; the Government of Japan; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and the World Bank.
Contact:Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682; firstname.lastname@example.org)Scott Smith: (1-718-220-3698; email@example.com)
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