What was once a draw for loggers is now a haven for monkeys, tigers, and elephants in a wooded swath of Cambodia. The country’s government has transformed a former logging concession into a new, Yosemite-sized protected area called Seima Protection Forest. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) worked closely with Cambodian governmental agencies to help create the protected area.

Covering more than 1,100 square miles along Cambodia’s eastern border with Vietnam, Seima is the country’s first protected area designed to conserve forest carbon as one of its key goals. WCS is helping to measure carbon stocks contained in the forest to calculate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it keeps out of the atmosphere.

This effort will support WCS’s Carbon for Conservation initiatives to help provide economic incentives to people living in high-biodiversity landscapes to protect their forests. These projects are being developed in conjunction with negotiations on a proposed international policy known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). In addition to work in Cambodia, WCS is supporting similar efforts in Bolivia, Guatemala, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Indonesia.

“Seima Protection Forest will serve as an important model for demonstrating how REDD could be implemented on the ground,” said Dr. Jane Carter Ingram of WCS’s Conservation Support Team. “Forests provide numerous benefits for both wildlife and rural communities, so efforts such as these will help on local, regional, and global scales.”

The newly designated protected area shelters 23 carnivore species, including seven cat species, two bears, and two species of wild dog. Researchers working there have recently discovered a bat and two frog species that are all new to science.

Seima will also continue to benefit local hunters and farmers from the Bunong ethnic minority, who have used the forest for many generations and will retain access in the newly designated protected area.

In addition to providing assistance in the wildlife surveys used to establish Seima, WCS works with law enforcement agencies to strengthen on-the-ground protection and works with local communities on balancing conservation with sustainable development.

WCS’s conservation work in this area is supported by: Asian Development Bank, Eleanor Briggs, Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA), Department for International Development (DFID) United Kingdom, The East Asia and Pacific Environmental Initiative, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, New Zealand Aid, Panthera, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The World Bank.

Read the press release: Cambodia Creates First Park to Protect Carbon and Wildlife