Officials: Game Hunting Won’t Affect Hilltribes

A hunting reserve planned for Ratanakkiri province will be located on largely uninhabited land and will not affect the lives of indigenous peoples living in the area, officials said Tuesday.

The Agriculture Ministry on Mon­day said it was in negotiations with a Spanish company, NSOK Safaris, to establish a luxury game reserve in the province’s O’Yadaw district.

“We are not affecting the land of the indigenous people. We are not taking their property,” Dany Chheang, deputy director of the Forestry Administration’s wildlife protection office, said Tuesday.

Tentative plans are for the hunting reserve to occupy as much as 100,000 hectares of public land located in three to four communes between the Srepok and Otang rivers and near the Lumphat district border, he said.

Ratanakkiri provincial Cabinet Chief Nab Bun Heng said that NSOK representatives had visited the area, which includes Som Thom commune, early this year. While some villagers depend on the forest in that area for their livelihoods, no one lives in the area now, he added.

Dany Chheang said money from the hunting reserve would be a boon to the province and country.

“The revenues would go to the nation or the province to develop the province,” he said. “It is also for the protection of our land.”

According to a 2004 report published by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conser­va­tion, an organization in Hungary that promotes conservation through hunting, the income host countries earn from game reserves may not always be greater than from other eco-tourism models.

While trophy hunting in Tan­zania’s Selous Game Reserve generates $70 per square kilometer, photographic tourism creates $130, though it requires 50 times the tourist density, according to the report.

Graeme Brown, Ratanakkiri Co­ordinator for Community Forest­ry International, said that eco-tourism projects had often failed to benefit the indigenous peoples of the province.

“[T]here have been a lot of disasters where eco-tourism has used the lands and traditional forests areas of indigenous peoples [and yet] the benefits from the tourism have not gone to the traditional custodians of the land,” he said.

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