At the end of December and continuing into January, there was a significant increase in the number of wildfires in the forest surrounding Chi Phat. Between December 21st and January 19th, 10 incidents of arson were discovered in vital forest area. It is believed their motive was to burn reforested fields in an attempt to claim title to the land, even though it is set within the boundaries of protected forest areas. This crisis was immediately addressed, and a number of Wildlife Alliance’s field programs took action to deal with the issue.
Immediately, we employed and assigned guards in all fields of the Tropical Reforestation project, and guard stations are being built in critical areas. Our Zoning and Demarcation team placed warning signs around the reforested fields. The Tropical Reforestation project then took preventative measures to protect the fields by plowing between rows and the entire perimeter to create a fire break. These fire prevention measures proved effective in halting the spread of a fire in Trapeang Roung. To involve local officials, staff from the Southern Cardamom Forest Protection Program brought this issue to the attention of the Koh Kong Provincial Office, and a meeting with authorities has been scheduled. Finally, in order to increase awareness in the community, the Kouprey Express Mobile Environmental Education Unit conducted an emergency Community Night Show (CNS) in Chi Phat to address the rampant fires occurring in the area. This special CNS featured staff from the Community Agriculture Development Project (CADP), Community-Based Ecotourism project (CBET) and the Forestry Administration, and focused on why forest fires are so detrimental to the environment and to livelihoods in the community. With approximately 300 in attendance, this presentation by KE was well received by the community. A sign was also installed in front of the CBET office to serve as a reminder to the community about the urgent need to protect their forest and wildlife.
This recent situation illustrates the challenges Wildlife Alliance continues to face in the field despite the progress we have made in the area in the last decade, as well as the importance of Wildlife Alliance’s key attribute – a holistic, direct action approach to conservation – combining law enforcement, community outreach and government advocacy to mitigate a crisis as it is emerging. Our work would not be possible without you, help us continue to protect the Southern Cardamom Mountain Range!
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison