A program to protect Virachey National Park in Ratanakkiri and Kirirom Natural Park in Kompong Speu has been extended at least through June 30.
World Wide Fund for Nature is granting about $110,000 to the projects, which help pay for rangers to monitor the parks, environmental officials said. The fund is also likely to launch a field study on the tiger population in the northeast.
“At this time, the most important thing is to protect the resources in the parks from destruction,” said Cambodia’s Conservation Director Chay Samith.
In 35,000-hectare Kirirom, WWF is paying for the operational costs of a 28-ranger monitoring program. In 332,500-hectare Ratanakkiri, where WWF launched a program just last year, the number of rangers is to increase from 31 to 38 in March, program officials said.
Seng Teak, WWF conservation program coordinator in Cambodia, said the rangers are fighting two main problems: illegal logging and wildlife poaching.
Recently, poachers have used homemade explosives to trap and kill tigers for their bones and skins. A poacher can sell a tiger to smugglers for at least $1,500—four times the average annual income. It is unclear how many tigers remain in the country.
Ken Serey Rotha, head of community forestry in Cambodia, said a delegation from WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society is expected to arrive in a few months to train rangers to conduct a tiger field study.
WWF formally opened an office at the Ministry of Environment in January 1998. Last week, the conservation group cemented its relationship with the government by signing a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Environment.
“Basically, WWF plans to be here a long time across the northeastern provinces,” said Andy Maxwell, the group’s chief technical adviser for conservation planning in northeastern Cambodia.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Smith)