New road plans threaten tiger reintroduction to Cambodia
A proposed new road and border crossing would do irreversible damage to Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest — a potential UNESCO World Heritage site — which supports some of Southeast Asia’s most threatened species and is the proposed site for the country’s tiger reintroduction plans, WWF said today.
The Srea Ampom-Kbal Damrei proposed road and border crossing will have limited developmental and economic benefits while threatening one of Cambodia’s iconic protected areas and a huge source of natural resources, environmental capital, and ecosystem services.
“Mondulkiri Protected Forest is a treasure trove of species and a vital lifeline for communities who rely on its ecosystem services to provide them fresh water, food and livelihoods” - Sam Ath Chhith - Country Director, WWF-Cambodia
The proposed road will cut through 36 km of the Mondulkiri Protected Forest, while not improving access to any existing villages.
Mondulkiri Protected Forest is a haven for threatened species including Giant Ibis, the national bird of Cambodia, Asian elephant, leopard, Siamese crocodile, 230 bird species and the world’s largest population of Banteng, an endangered species of wild cattle. In the 1950’s the region’s dry forests were dubbed the ‘Serengeti of Asia’ because of their massive concentration of large mammals. Mondulkiri is also the site of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s proposed plan to restore tiger populations within the country.
“This proposed road is completely incompatible with tiger restoration and should be cancelled immediately" - Teak Seng - Regional Conservation Director, WWF-Greater Mekong
If tigers are restored to Mondulkiri it could have major potential for tourism that could bring long-term revenue to local communities and the provincial government. Tigers are also a powerful tool to attract additional funding for effective protected area management and conservation law enforcement.
Roads however, degrade tiger habitat and allow poachers access into parts of the forest previously inaccessible. The proposed road could derail the potential tiger restoration and increase wildlife trafficking between Cambodia and Vietnam. Additional threats include disruption of animal migration and movement, road kills from traffic and an overall degradation of the quality of the protected area.