Cambodia says Asian elephants face threat

A trapped elephant died after being rescued by rangers​ at Mondulkiri province on July 23, 2016. FB (Courtesy of The Phnom Penh Post/ANN)

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) — Cambodia Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the Asian elephant is being severely threatened in world sanctuaries. In Cambodia, eight elephants have recently died in wildlife sanctuaries.

Pheaktra said Asian elephants are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. World sanctuaries are being threatened and degrading habitats have separated Asian elephants and forced them to live separately.

The eight elephants that died were in the eastern part of Cambodia.

A camera installed at the Southern Cardamom National Park recently recorded four baby elephants caught in leg traps. One was trapped until it died, Pheaktra said.

“Using traps to catch animals in Cambodia’s protected areas is still a great concern and it is a danger for Asian elephants. It can cause them to sustain an injury or die. We have therefore increased patrols in 68 protected areas. About 30,000 traps have been removed and many animals were rescued,” he said.

Airavata Elephant Foundation president Chenda Clais said on November 10 that wild elephants face trapping, a lack of proper shelter and daily food in the dry season. Population growth has also fuelled the human demand for land.

Local elephants also face the issues of a lack of female elephants for breeding and lack of experts in elephant conservation, Clais said. She called on the Cambodian government to put more effort into protecting elephants. Elephants, she added, are considered the main animal in Khmer culture and play an important role in the ecosystem.

“We should increase attention on elephant conservation and forest protection. The forest is the main shelter for wild animals. If we can do this, Asian elephants will increase from one year to another,” she said.

Pheatra said the government has put forth the effort to organise activities to create the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group (CECG) in coordination with the Forestry Administration and the Fauna and Flora International to increase the Asian elephant population in Cambodia.

He said the ministry has organised a 10-year plan from 2020 to 2029. It prioritises maintaining shelters, conservation, connecting elephants and strengthening enforcement.

According to Pheaktra, the number of Asian elephants is estimated at between 400 and 600, mostly in the Cardamom Mountains area, in the highlands north of the Tonle Sap lake and in Mondulkiri province. The number of local elephants is estimated at 71.