Cambodia Joins Global Race to Save Tigers

A delegation from Cambodia will travel to Russia this weekend to participate in a global initiative aimed at saving the world’s rapidly diminishing tiger population, officials said yesterday.

Coinciding with the Chinese Year of the Tiger, the meeting represents a concerted international effort by the thirteen countries that have traditionally played host to wild tigers.

A group led by Forestry Association Director-General Chhang Kimsun will attend the International Forum on Tiger Conservation–to be chaired by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin–in St Petersburg from Sunday to Wednesday, Forestry Administration spokesman Thun Sarath said.

China, India, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma are among the nations that plan to sign a declaration affirming their commitment to double the global tiger population by the time the Year of the Tiger comes around again in 2022, according to the summit’s website. The meeting will allow countries to finalize details of their individual contributions to the effort.

Cambodia will establish a protected tiger habitat of at least 15,000 square meters, according to Kry Masphal, senior officer at the Forestry Administration’s department of wildlife and biodiversity.

“The goal is to raise the tiger population in Cambodia. But before getting to that point we need to ensure that the habitat is secure,” he said in a recent interview.

The habitat will probably be located in the Eastern Plains region, which currently contains five conservation sites, including the Mondolkiri Protected Forest area, Mr Masphal said.

Fifty rangers will be trained to protect the area, and authorities aim to strengthen cross-border cooperation in an attempt to cut out poaching, he added.

Authorities hope Cambodia’s remaining tigers will be attracted to the area by abundant prey, Mr Masphal said, adding that it might eventually be possible to bring in tigers from countries that do not have suitable habitats.

While estimates of tiger numbers in Cambodia vary, experts agree there is no breeding population, he added.

WWF-Cambodia Country Director Teak Seng warned that Cambodia must guarantee that the area will be protected.

“International demand for tigers and tiger parts will bring additional pressures for law enforcement teams. Thus, a regional approach is needed to close trade routes,” he said.

An estimated $33 million will be spent on the project over 12 years, according to a draft of the plan published in September.


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