National parks and wildlife sanctuaries that are receiving international support are being well-protected but those falling under the sole responsibility of the government are being managed poorly, a World Wildlife Foundation official said Tuesday.
Almost half of the illegal activities undertaken within the borders of all those areas are driven by villagers’ needs, a joint World Wildlife Foundation-government study on the management of protected areas released last week found.
“The protected areas where there is international support, they are doing very well,” said Seng Teak, WWF program coordinator.
“But in those areas that aren’t internationally supported, it’s very poor,” he said.
Seng Teak said that because the government does not have the resources to protect the areas, it is important to prioritize which areas need to be protected.
Conducted in September, the study polled the directors and deputy directors of protected areas as well as officials from the ministries of environment and agriculture.
“What we found was that most of [the areas] don’t have management plans,” Seng Teak said. “They need to properly plan very urgently.”
Within the 26 protected areas analyzed, the most widespread threats were illegal logging and illegal poaching, with non timber forest product use and land encroachment close behind.
The government and park officials said that in their experience, 41 percent of illegal activities were caused by villagers struggling to survive, 32 percent were from full commercial exploitation and 27 percent by villagers trying to make extra money.
“Widespread poverty in Cambodia creates a high demand for resources, including those located inside protected areas,” the report said.
Environment Minister Mok Mareth said the government needs help from abroad if it is to properly preserve the country’s protected areas.
However, he said the government is already working on ways to better protect the parks and sanctuaries through new legislation that will break up the protected areas into different zones that will have different purposes and resources allocated to them.