Protecting Asian Elephants and Improving Sustainable Livelihoods in the Forests of Cambodia

Asian elephants in Cambodia. Image credit: Courtesy of Allison Shelley, Wild Earth Allies

Protecting Asian Elephants and Improving Sustainable Livelihoods in the Forests of Cambodia

Organization
Category Nature Conservation

Our project categories represent one of three core solutions pathways to solving climate change. Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers, and community agriculture.

Realm Indomalaya

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status active

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Ongoing indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$$

$$$$ indicates a project between $250,000-$1 million.

Timeframe 12 Months
Partner Wild Earth Allies

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100% of your donation will go directly to support this project. You can also give a gift in honor of a friend or family member. 100% of your donation will go directly to protecting 1.7 million acres of Cambodia’s vital forests so that Asian elephants and traditional livelihoods flourish. You can also give a gift in honor of a friend or family member.

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Asian elephants are endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and human-elephant conflict. In Cambodia, the Asian elephant has been part of Khmer culture for millennia, yet fewer than 600 now remain. The country’s deforestation rates are among the highest globally, and Cambodia’s at-risk elephants are of great concern to Indigenous communities. For centuries, Indigenous communities have sustainably collected non-timber forest products, but as forests shrink, human-elephant conflict increasingly threatens lives and livelihoods where people and elephants share land and resources.

A female Asian elephant in Cambodia. Image credit: Allison Shelley, Wild Earth Allies

This project led by Wild Earth Allies is working to protect 1.7 million acres of Asian elephant habitat across two of Cambodia’s globally significant forests -- Prey Lang and the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in the Cardamom Mountains. Prey Lang comprises one of southeast Asia’s most extensive remaining lowland evergreen forests and is a critical catchment area for the Mekong watershed, which feeds millions. This landscape is also home to Indigenous Kuy communities whose livelihoods and culture are intimately connected to the forest. 

The Cardamom Mountains is a stronghold Asian elephant habitat, estimated to contain half of the country’s total population, and is key to the broader regional recovery of this endangered species.

Wild Earth  Allies Cambodia Program Director Tuy Sereivathana, left, and Program Coordinator Neang Thy review new video footage of elephants retrieved from the team's remote surveillance camera "traps," at their field camp in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. Image credit: Courtesy of Allison Shelley for Wild Earth Allies

With this protection, 76 million tons of carbon stock will remain in storage, degraded forest habitat will be restored, and at least two Asian elephant corridors will be located, mapped, and protected in the Cardamom Mountains landscape. In addition, at least five communities will benefit from human-elephant conflict mitigation strategies and improved agricultural practices.

This project is located in the Indochina Mixed Forests & Peatlands bioregion (IM12)

Together with community and government partners, this project will implement five targeted actions: protected area management, biomonitoring, forest restoration, diversified livelihood support, and human-elephant conflict mitigation. Monitoring helps track at-risk elephant populations and informs conservation management, improving ranger response times to illegal activities. “Elephant trees,” or trees grown from seeds collected from elephant dung, will also be planted to restore forests. Rural and Indigenous communities will be involved in at all levels of planning to promote diversified livelihoods and respond to human-elephant conflict.

Children gather for a Wild Earth Allies environmental education festival in the village of Siem Bouk in northern Cambodia. The village sits on the edge of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. Image credit: Courtesy of Wild Earth Allies

Wild Earth Allies envisions a world where wildlife flourishes in healthy ecosystems that sustains us all. In Cambodia, this means critical forests and migration corridors are conserved, and Asian elephant populations are supported in recovery and growth in ways that improve human well-being. Specifically, Indigenous and other rural communities should thrive in these healthy forests that support traditional ways of life and regional prosperity. Finally, the forest ecosystems themselves are enriched by the presence of elephants since elephants enhance biodiversity by spreading seeds.

The Cambodia team on patrol with community and government partners in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. Left to right, Program Coordinator Neang Thy, Program Director Tuy Sereivathana, Local Field Lead Srey Ben, and Ranger Hiv Chen. Image credit: Courtesy of Allison Shelley for Wild Earth Allies

During the pandemic, pressures on forests have intensified, and on-the-ground work implementing protection, restoration, and sustainable livelihood activities with community and government partners has never been more critical. This project is led by Director Tuy Sereivathana (Vathana), who is well-known for his community-based approach to conservation across Cambodia and is fondly referred to as “Uncle Elephant.” Vathana has been internationally recognized as a Goldman Environmental Prize recipient and as a National Geographic Explorer. He is also the focus of the short film Uncle Elephant which was selected for four film festivals in 2020 and 2021.

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Your contribution will help ensure the long term success of this important project. Gifts can be made as a tribute to a friend or family member and are tax-deductible for U.S. residents. Please contact us!