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Known as the Serengeti of Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s Northern Plains hold the last intact representation of an ecosystem that once dominated most of Indochina.
The Northern Plains, which contains a mixture of forest, wetlands and grasslands, provides important habitat for Asian Elephants, the Fishing Cat, and the Indochinese Silvered Leaf Monkey. It is also home to some of the planet’s most endangered large water birds, including the Giant Ibis.
Due to its spectacular assortment of globally endangered species, the area is of critical conservation importance. Logging, hunting, and agricultural expansion, however, threaten to destroy the Northern Plains’ unique plant and animal communities.
Rainforest Trust is partnering with Wildlife Conservation Society- Cambodia to protect this ecosystem through the creation of the 198,236-acre Prey Preah Roka National Park. The new park will form a natural wildlife corridor that connects with two previously established reserves and will consolidate a protected area complex covering over 1,235,000 acres.
Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia
Asian Elephant (EN), Dhole (EN), Indochinese Silvered Langur (EN), Pileated Gibbon (EN), Banteng (EN), Fishing Cat (EN), Eld’s Deer (EN), Giant Ibis (CR), White-shouldered Ibis (CR)
Tropical dry forest
Agricultural expansion, poaching, logging
Creation of Prey Preah Roka National Park
Total Cost of Project
Price Per Acre
Once home to the largest known collection of large mammals and water birds outside Africa, Cambodia’s Northern Plains is legendary for its ecological productivity and thriving wildlife populations.
The proposed Prey Preah Roka National Park contains a diverse mosaic of habitats that support at least 28 IUCN threatened species. Based on confirmed records in the adjacent protected areas and habitats in the proposed reserve, an additional 19 threatened species are considered likely present. Among the species confirmed in the proposed reserve are Asian Elephants. These elephants are the only species in the genus Elephas and are distinguished from African Elephants by their smaller, rounded ears and shorter stature. Asian Elephants, which can live more than 60 years in the wild, are the largest mammals found in Asia. They can reach a maximum height of ten feet and weigh up to five-and-a-half tons. Asian Elephants populations have declined by 50% over the last three generations due to a series of threats that now endanger their long-term survival. Growing demand for their ivory on the black market has increased poaching rates. The loss, degradation, and fragmentation of critical habitat have also increased the challenges facing remaining populations. In addition, Asian Elephants are captured for sale in the illegal wildlife trade. Additional species found in the proposed reserve include two Critically Endangered tree species, and seven Endangered mammals, among which are the Pileated Gibbon, Eld’s Deer and the Dhole, an Asiatic species of wild dog. Prey Preah Roka contains no less than five Critically Endangered bird species – one of the highest concentrations of birds on the edge of extinction. The Critically Endangered bird species include the White-shouldered Ibis, the Giant Ibis, and three vulture species. Other Endangered bird species that have been recorded within the proposed park include the Green Peafowl and the White-winged Duck.
Local wildlife faces threats from multiple sources that have already led to dramatic population declines and now jeopardize the survival of several species.
A nationwide increase in illegal logging has affected the proposed park, which contains a high proportion of commercially valuable luxury wood species, including rosewood. Poaching pressures arise from two principal sources. Animal organs and body parts perceived to possess curative qualities in traditional Eastern medicine have been highly valued for many years. Growing populations in Cambodia and neighboring Asian countries in recent decades have led to an increased demand for these parts. In turn, hunting rates have risen. Another threat stems from the illegal pet trade. Spurred on by quick profits, poachers capture and sell exotic species like Clouded Leopards that are prized by local and international collectors. Ultimately, the greatest threat to the proposed park is the conversion of forest to agricultural land. As plantations dedicated to sugar, rubber, teak and oil palm grow, forests continue to fall. These plantations, which are established through government sanctioned Economic Land Concessions (ELC), have already affected the proposed reserve. The establishment of ELCs in 2011 for sugarcane production directly south of the proposed park site resulted in an increase of migrant worker communities and the conversion of forest to agricultural land along its boundary. In 2013 three ELCs were proposed within the boundaries of Prey Preah Roka Forest. Our local partner worked successfully with the forestry officials to have these three concessions cancelled. Despite this success, the only way to completely protect the site from ELCs is for the site to be designated a protected forest.
The Northern Plains remains a wild landscape with only a small human population dispersed throughout its limits. Approximately 8,000 people, representing Khmer and indigenous ethnicities, live in or near the proposed protected forest.
The proposed park is important for the livelihoods of local people, both through direct use of non-timber forest products and the sustenance of ecosystem services, particularly fisheries and water during the dry season. Although a significant proportion of these communities depend on the natural environment for their livelihoods, they do not yet have secure tenure or user rights. Communities understand that declaring the area a protected forest will ensure protection of the ecosystems services upon which they rely. If the proposed park were to be converted into an ELC, all prospective rights would be extinguished. Local communities will play an integral part in all aspects of the project, from being involved in consultations – including the definition of boundaries – to establishing community patrols once the park has been established. As part of the Northern Plains landscape project, communities will participate in a range of conservation-related activities such as producing Wildlife-Friendly Ibis Rice and eco-tourism operations.
Thanks to the generous support of our Board members and other supporters who cover all of our operating expenses, Rainforest Trust is able to allocate 100% of donations to conservation action. No board member receives financial benefit and our staff salaries are modest.
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