The Ministry of Environment of the Royal Government of Cambodia manages the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary (KSWS), originally designated as a protected area in 2002. The site is part of the ancestral homeland of a large number of ethnic Bunong people, for whom the forest is a key source of income and central to their spiritual beliefs. Technical and financial support from the Wildlife Conservation Society, and collaboration with other local NGO partners, supports the project to both conserve and restore biodiversity values and to protect the livelihoods of local people.
KSWS plays a vital role in the preservation of the region’s important and vulnerable wildlife, including the world’s largest populations of the endangered black-shanked douc and yellow-cheeked crested gibbon, as well as a nationally important population of Asian elephant and many other species. At the same time, it supports the sustainable development of local communities, most notably through securing communities legal title to their traditional lands, and through the REDD+ Benefit Sharing Mechanism which provides significant funding to community-chosen and community-led development projects.
Great for Earth
The largest threat driving deforestation in Cambodia is land clearance for both large and small-scale agriculture. KSWS sits at a deforestation frontier with areas of nearby protected and unprotected land extensively cleared over the last decade. There is also a great deal of illegal wildlife poaching and illegal logging of rare tree species.
The Wildlife Sanctuary is home to over 1000 species, including more than 85 globally threatened species. The project’s biodiversity monitoring is world class, with long term species population monitoring available for 11 key species.
The project area borders what used to be the 62,000 ha Snoul Wildlife Sanctuary until 2018. Rampant deforestation led to the loss of almost all of its forest cover and it was therefore degazetted as a protected area. KSWS however has successfully managed to prevent approximately 25,000 ha of predicted deforestation since 2010.
The project also supported Cambodia’s first data-driven zonation process for a protected area. This process took into account more than 40 spatial data layers, which helped provide objective and robust decision support for long term land use planning and sustainable protected area management. This helps ensure the long term protection of the project area and reduce further deforestation.
Positive for People
The project actively supports community land rights, including securing the first Indigenous Community Title (ICT) in a protected area in Cambodia and the first ICT to a Bunong community. In total the project has been able to secure seven Indigenous Community Land Titles for Bunong communities within the project area, with 8 more under process.
An ecotourism venture has also been started through WCS’s support. The Jahoo Gibbon Camp is a community-run ecotourism project, now run with support of World Hope International, which brings in more than $14,000 annually in community income. This tourism revenue is used to support management of the ecotourism product and for community development funds.
Over the lifetime of the project, livelihoods or income has been improved for 11,799 people through agricultural programs, improved resource security, sustainable bamboo harvesting and handicraft production, community nest protection programs, and direct employment. All 20 target REDD+ villages in and around the site are provided resources and support to enforce their legal right to patrol and protect resources within their indigenous lands, as well as receive direct payments from the project’s benefit sharing mechanism to be used for self-directed community development investments.