Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia
The Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary is a terrestrial protected area with tropical and subtropical moist and dry broadleaf forests. It is the largest remaining primary lowland evergreen forest in Cambodia. Spanning four provinces and 500,000 hectares, Prey Lang has seven distinct ecosystems, including a semi-deciduous swamp forest, and is home to a number of endangered species of trees, plants and animals. There are over 200,000 people living adjacent to the forest, and some of these people also help manage and protect Prey Lang. The forest is primarily protected by the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN), an alliance of Kuy indigenous communities from each of Prey Lang’s provinces.
History and Activities
The communities living in the forest formed the Prey Lang Community Network in 2001. The communities petitioned the government to protect the area for more than 20 years before the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary was formally recognised and gazetted in 2016. The Sanctuary has been recognised by the Land Law 2001, which formally recognises and protects the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands. The participation of indigenous and local communities is also recognised in national legislation pertaining to protected areas, like the Environment and Natural Resource Code.
Despite its biological importance, Prey Lang faces a number of threats to biodiversity conservation. Organised illegal logging and timber smuggling present an ongoing challenge to Prey Lang, jeopardising the livelihoods, natural environment and culture of local communities. Some of the trees most felled by illegal logging are the Dipterocarpus species, or resin trees, which many indigenous households in the region tap for resin and rely upon as a main source of income.
To combat illegal logging, the PLCN patrol, campaign, record illegal activities and use georeferencing technology to record and upload information about the health of the forest, wildlife poaching and illegal logging.
Management and Governance
Protected areas in Cambodia are governed in accordance with the country’s Protected Area Law, which requires consultation with local communities. Cambodia’s draft Environmental Code also states that indigenous and local communities should be consulted on the management of protected areas near to where they live. The Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary is managed by both the Prey Lang Community Network and the Ministry of Environment. The PLCN and the Ministry of Environment meet every two years, and the PLCN meets quarterly with the Ministry of Environment at the provincial level.
There is no official management plan for Prey Lang, but in practice, the PLCN makes decisions regarding how the Sanctuary is managed and protected Undertaking a landscape approach, the PLCN strive to manage the Sanctuary to conserve it as one continuous ecosystem. The PLCN patrol the forest to stop illegal logging, seize logging equipment, and confiscate guns, snares and illegal fishing gear. Rangers from the Ministry of Environment and local police sometimes join forest patrols organised by the PLCN.
The Prey Lang community members may seek permission to extract timber to construct their own homes and temples. They may also make use of medicinal plants and fish, as well as exercise their customary rights to the resin trees, which are protected by law.
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Case study written and published in April 2020