Conservationist Win Government Honor

Before Jenny Daltry led a team of researchers into the Cardamom Mountains in 2000, the Siamese crocodile was thought to be extinct in the wilds of Cambodia.

But Ms Daltry, a conservationist with Fauna and Flora International, said going into the mountains, she knew if the crocodiles still existed, they could only be there.

“It was in the middle of the night [when I saw the crocodile], I started jumping up and down,” she said. “It was like seeing a unicorn or a dinosaur.”

The re-discovery of the crocodile was only one of the reasons why she was awarded the title of officer of the Order of Sahemetri, an award given to foreigners recognized for their service to the King and to Cambodia.

“I was very surprised and did not expect it,” Ms Daltry said of her award on Friday at a ceremony at the Forestry Administration in Phnom Penh.

“It’s a positive reference to everyone’s work but it also shows the government’s interest in conservation and it’s importance,” she said.

Ms Daltry has spent a combined 10 years working in Cambodia, including serving as FFI’s country director for five years.

Some of her accomplishments in Cambodia include creating the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Program after the discovery of the Siamese crocodile, developing a Masters degree program for conservation at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and establishing the Cambodian Journal of Natural History.

Although she has accomplished a lot in Cambodia, Ms Daltry said the main goal of FFI is capacity building so that one day the organization is not needed in the country.

“It’s their country and Cambodians should be doing conservation work,” she said, adding that over the years, she has seen a significant increase in Cambodians taking up conservation work.

She noted that Cambodia has done well in designating conservation areas, more than a quarter of the country is protected, which is higher than any Western country but the country also faces big challenges as well. Development projects such as hydro-power dams and land concessions have a large negative impact on the environment, she said.

“Other parts of the world have both development in a sustainable way,” Ms Daltry said. “The massive hydro dams are not sustainable.”

British Ambassador Andrew Mace was present at the ceremony to honor Ms Daltry and FFI’s work as part of the Darwin Initiative, a fund that helps provide British experts to countries that have a rich biodiversity but lack resources.

“The work of Dr Daltry and FFI in Cambodia is a great example of how the initiative’s aims can be fulfilled,” he said. “It is helping to build the expertise and skills of Cambodian scientists to understand and protect the riches of their country’s natural heritage, and to share the results of their research.”

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