Southern Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Southern Mondulkiri, Cambodia Photo
Mondulkiri Province is Cambodia’s most diverse landscape, containing grasslands, deciduous forests, and evergreen hill forests that support many important species such as the Asian elephant.
©E. Pollard

Located in eastern Cambodia, the province of Mondulkiri is home to the Seima Protection Forest, established with help from WCS. Seima's deciduous and evergreen hill forests support a one-of-a-kind array of rare and endangered species. Tigers, Asian elephants, and the yellow-cheeked crested gibbon reside in this rich landscape, which was historically connected to the rest of the country by just one road. These forests also support a staggering number of bird species.

Only about 25,000 people live in and around this area of southern Mondulkiri province, making it one of the most important landscapes for wildlife conservation in the region. The last couple of decades have been a time of increasing economic prosperity in Cambodia. The future of this pristine landscape depends on sustainable development and management of natural resources, and concrete action to protect the area’s habitats and wildlife.

Fast Facts

  • Mondulkiri is home to one of Cambodia’s last populations of tigers.
  • The world’s largest population of black-shanked doucs, unique primates, lives here.
  • The Phnong, an ethnic minority in Cambodia, live in the province’s forests.
  • The Seima Protection Forest, formerly a logging concession, shelters an extraordinary variety of wildlife in addition to important carbon stores, which will be part of a carbon offset market that WCS is helping to develop.

Challenges

Road development in Mondulkiri has been underway since the late 90s, but has accelerated recently with the rapid development of Cambodia’s economy and increased security after decades of conflict. The area’s wildlife and their habitats become increasingly vulnerable as access to this tucked-away province improves. People are moving in from the outside to claim land and clear the forests to make way for plantation crops like rubber. Illegal logging of valuable timber trees further damages the landscape and threatens the livelihoods of indigenous communities who live here. In defiance of the law, hunters continue to operate in Mondulkiri, trapping small- and medium-size mammals in wire snares and hunting larger game with guns.

WCS Responds

WCS has worked in this area since 1999, and in 2002, we assisted Cambodia’s Forestry Administration in creating the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Project. In 2009, we worked with governmental agencies to create the Seima Protection Forest, a Yosemite-size protected area along the eastern border with Vietnam. This forest shelters seven cat species, two bears, and two species of wild dogs, among other carnivores. Scientists working in Seima also recently discovered two new frogs and a bat species living in the forest.

Seima is Cambodia's first protected area designed to conserve forest carbon, a key buffer against climate change. WCS scientists are working to measure its carbon stocks 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. WCS has also helped establish ranger stations throughout the landscape, and trained rangers to manage the area and control illegal activities like hunting and logging.

In addition, WCS is helping indigenous communities secure formal land ownership rights, ensuring that these precious forests are used for sustainable agriculture and to support existing villages. This will reduce the threat of illegal land grabs and destructive practices like large-scale logging and agro-industrial plantations.

From the Newsroom

Wild Tiger Report CardFebruary 17, 2010

As the world celebrates the Year of the Tiger, WCS assesses tiger habitat and populations across eight priority landscapes in Asia with a color-coded report.

New Park in Cambodia October 23, 2009

The forest haven for monkeys, tigers, and elephants also stores carbon and will help in the global fight against climate change. Key research conducted by WCS led to the park’s creation.

Gibbons Hang Tough in AsiaAugust 28, 2008

In Cambodia, WCS researchers find thousands of endangered gibbons and doucs living in a conservation area that was recently the domain of loggers and hunters. Take action to save Asia’s primates.

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