Seventy five biologists from 15 countries gathered at a workshop in Phnom Penh Tuesday to begin a conservation plan for the lower Mekong River region.
Thuk Kroeun Vutha, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Environment, which is co-hosting the four-day workshop, said conservation in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will require cooperation, good information exchange and strong enforcement.
The workshop should produce a map of key conservation sites in the region and a strategy for conserving biodiversity. It’s being funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the UN Development Program and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Will Duckworth, who coordinated a WWF-funded biological assessment of the region, noted a series of “unparalleled” discoveries in the region ranging from tiny fish to large mammals.
But he said the area faces a wide range of threats, including human overcrowding that is forcing the settlement of people in relatively pristine areas, a “cultural predisposition toward intensive hunting” and an insatiable market demand for wildlife from neighboring countries.
Duckworth also cautioned against focusing too much on forest habitats at the expense of other habitats, such as rivers, lakes, wetlands and grasslands.
Several bird species seem to have become extinct in Southeast Asia, he said.
including the pink-headed duck, white-eyed river martin, the Indian skimmer, the great white pelican and the great flamingo .