SOUTHERN CARDAMOM, CAMBODIA
The Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project protects 497,000 hectares of tropical rainforest in South-West Cambodia which is globally significant for wildlife conservation, ecosystem servicing, and community livelihoods. The project uses global best practices of forest protection and community development to safeguard the forest and prevent more than 3,000,000 tons of carbon emissions annually.
Wildlife Alliance came to the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape in 2001 to conduct emergency interventions during an elephant and tiger hunting crisis during which 29 tigers and 38 Asian elephant had been poached following the construction of a new highway through the landscape to Thailand. Anarchic slash-burn cultivation was also destroying thousands of hectares of forest per month. The Cardamom Rainforest was on the brink of destruction. Following our success in reducing these threats we were asked by the Royal Government of Cambodia to design and help implement a long term Protected Area Management Plan to protect the landscape, its forests, and wildlife. Since 2014 threats to the Cardamoms have accelerated driven by the massive recent Chinese investment in Cambodia which is part of China’s national Belt and Road Initiative. This required a more intensive response.
In 2012, Wildlife Works learned of Wildlife Alliance's hard work and challenges in protecting this forest. After leading the REDD+ feasibility study with Wildlife Alliance for the Southern Cardamom Rainforest Landscape, Wildlife Works saw the intense commitment to forest protection and its work with local communities. In 2016, Wildlife Works and Wildlife Alliance established the Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project in partnership with Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment. Through the sales of the project's REDD+ credits, Wildlife Alliance is now able to fund their work on the ground and implement a direct threat-based approach to safeguarding wildlife and securing intact forest ecosystems. Under the Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project we partner with governments and communities to effectively protect the forest and give communities the opportunity to generate sustainable incomes which are reliant on maintaining intact tropical forest. We currently work with more than 15 villages across the landscape to implement sustainable Community Based Ecotourism.
Wildlife Alliance also leads a uniquely effective boots-on-the-ground law enforcement model focusing on professional, trained, supervised, equipped, and mentored law enforcement rangers. We currently operate across 8,347-km2 of the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape with 131 rangers active 24/7 out of seven professionally equipped ranger stations. Our approach is not that of a traditional conservation NGO and we do not implement the failed model of hands-off ‘business as usual conservation’. Instead we are proud that we directly supervise and manage all law enforcement. We ensure our rangers are well paid, receive full health and life insurance, have the equipment and capacity to work safely and effectively, and are motivated and led by inspirational supervisors. This leadership and supervision which we provide is critical. We create a culture of excellence in conservation, high performance, and zero tolerance for corruption. Our direct management and supervision of rangers ensures they work effectively but also means we can exert good governance management over all activities.
The action-oriented and results-based approach of the Southern Cardamom REDD+ project has achieved demonstrable conservation results: the Cardamoms are the best protected body of rainforest in the region and we have significantly reduced deforestation (<0.3% annual deforestation compared to the National average of 3.8% annually between 2013 and 2018), achieved Zero Poaching of Asian Elephant since 2006, and supported the recovery of populations of ungulates and carnivores.
Our community projects directly benefit 29,000 forest dependent villagers from 15 communities and our award-winning model of Community Based Ecotourism is regarded as the best practice for community driven bottom-up conservation in tropical Asia.
In 2018, our rangers patrolled 129,415-km, seized 2,039 logs and 325m3 of luxury timber, destroyed 19,986 illegal hunting snares, rescued 383 live animals from illegal wildlife traders, and confiscated 553 chainsaws. As a result of this action, our Judicial Police Officer rangers filed 144 court cases against forest and wildlife criminals.
In December 2018 the Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project was validated and verified (for 2015-2017 period) under of the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate Community and Biodiversity Standard at Gold level.
MILESTONES TO DATE
200% increase in agricultural productivity and 300% income increase for families in Community Agricultural Development Project
50 community scholarships for secondary education in 2012
Asia’s most prominent female conservation CEO
Over 50% of management positions in Community Based Ecotourism and Agricultural Development projects are female
3,580,034 tons of annual avoided carbon emissions
497,000 hectares of High Conservation Value tropical forests
54 IUCN Threatened Species of bird, mammal, and reptiles
6,749 live wildlife rescued (lifetime of project to 2020)
5,432 chainsaws confiscated (lifetime of project to 2020)
6,190 illegal hunting camps dismantled (lifetime of project to 2020)
301,816 illegal hunting snares destroyed (lifetime of project to 2020)
Zero poaching of the Asian elephant since 2006