Irrawaddy dolphins red listed

Photo courtesy of WWF Cambodia

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | The Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 07 December 2017 | 06:52 ICT

Cambodia’s beloved Irrawaddy dolphins are facing troubled waters, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) yesterday flagging the riverine mammal as ‘critically endangered’ in an update to its ‘Red List’.

The dolphins are often caught in gillnets, which cast broad tangles of net that create the greatest threat to the freshwater mammals, according to the IUCN release. Overfishing of the dolphins’ food sources and habitat destruction have also led to a 50 percent drop in population in the past 60 years, the release said. Randall Reeves, chair of the IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group, said in an IUCN release that the dolphin is a major tourism draw along the Mekong River, especially in Cambodia.

“While the protected status of the species means that deliberate hunting or capture is rare or non-existent, protection from entanglement and other threats is either lacking entirely or largely ineffective,” Reeves said. Youk Senglong, deputy executive director for the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), yesterday acknowledged illegal fishing as a contributing factor to the dolphins’ decline, but he pointed to hydropower dams upstream on the Mekong as the most serious source of trauma.

“Now the Irrawaddy is really in danger, and there should be prompt and effective intervention from the government and other relevant stakeholders, such as development partners, to conserve it,” he said in an email.

Posted on: December 6, 2017 8:38 pm

Confirel wins sweet honour

An employee sits among cooling palm sugar at a warehouse in Kampong Speu province in 2011. Hector Bermejo

Cheng Sokhorng, The Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 24 November 2017 | 00:00 ICT

Cambodian-based specialty food producer Confirel won first prize for its Thnot Organic Sugar at the 15th Asean Food Conference in Ho Chi Minh City yesterday.

Thnot sugar had won first prize once before, in a 2005 European competition, but this marks the first time it has won in Asean and for its nutritional qualities, according to Hay Ly Eang, CEO of Confirel.

Confirel works with the Kampong Speu Palm Sugar Promotion Association (KSPSPA) and its member families to process palm-based goods including sugar, wine, vinegar and juice. Annually, Confirel receives approximately 150 tonnes of organic palm sugar from this partnership.

According to Eang, the first place prize has revived the positive reputation of Cambodian palm sugar and could result in a strengthening of the entire market.

“This award will strengthen our reputation in the international market,” he said. “Local farmers should be proud.”

KSPSPA President Sam Saroeun said that since Kampong Speu palm sugar obtained geographical indicator status in 2010, becoming internationally recognised as a quality product, its recognition has spread and improved the incomes of farmers. This award, he said, would also have a positive impact.

The association’s capacity of production this year was approximately 250 to 270 tonnes, and farmers earn about 5,000 riel per kilogram sold. Plans for expansion of production and cultivation are in place, said Saroeun.

However, he remains afraid of counterfeit palm sugar products flooding the market. “We are always concerned about protecting palm sugar’s reputation in the market,” he said. “I hope the government will take action to help us.”

Posted on: November 23, 2017 8:47 pm

Unit to study wildfires in Asean

A volunteer holds tubing used as a hose during last year’s fires in Prek Toal. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
The Phnom Penh Post, Tue, 14 November 2017

The first dedicated research unit for studying wildfires in upper Asean countries, including Cambodia, could provide invaluable research data to help governments address the issue, scientists and conservationists said yesterday.

“There is no existing focus or direct research center or special research unit that deals directly with wildland fires, smoke and haze under vegetation types, geographic conditions, weather patterns and related human behaviors of mainland Southeast Asia,” reads the founding statement of the Upper Asean Wildland Fire Special Research Unit (WFSRU).

Established last month within Thailand’s Kasetsart University, the unit aims to fill a significant gap in the region’s knowledge and research on wildfires, forest fires and their impacts on the environment and human society and health in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

One of its three founders, Dr Veerachai Tanpipat, said the unit’s activities fall under the Global Wildland Fire Network, which was mandated in 2004 by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

“It will act as a focal point to provide all necessary fire, smoke and haze scientific and management knowledge to interested parties,” he said in an email.

According to Tanpipat, the “main purpose” of the unit would be to provide governments, like Cambodia’s, with practical information to address their wildfire problems.

“Fire is a big issue in Cambodia’s forests,” said Simon Mahood, a senior technical advisor for the NGO Wildlife Conservation Society. (more…)

Posted on: November 19, 2017 8:31 pm

McLaren McTotalled

Soth Koemsoeun, The Phnom Penh Post
Fri, 17 November 2017

A $1 million supercar was totalled in Koh Kong province after the truck transporting it crashed with another truck on Tuesday. Police claim they do not know the owner of what appears to be a McLaren P1. Social media was abuzz with rumours about the owner of the luxury car, which runs anywhere from $1 million to $1.3 million, before tax. Only 375 units of the British supercar exist in the world.

Sok Thorn, police chief of Botum Sakor district, said the truck carrying the McLaren collided with another truck transporting goods from Phnom Penh to Koh Kong’s Andong Teuk commune. Five people were injured in the crash, according to Thorn.

‘The police took the two trucks and one car to be kept at Botum Sakor District Police Station and are waiting for the procedure to be handled,’ said Thorn. He added that police do not know who caused the crash and are waiting for the owner of the car to come to the police station to settle the case.

Posted on: November 19, 2017 8:26 pm

Baby cranes

Post Staff, The Phnom Penh Post
Tue, 3 October 2017

Fifty endangered sarus cranes have hatched from 27 nests protected by conservationists and villagers in Cambodia’s Northern Plains, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The nests are in Kulen Promtep and Chhep wildlife sanctuaries.

‘We hired 44 local villagers to protect these nests because they can be threatened by consumption, by wild pigs or domestic dogs, egg collection by local people and flooding,’ said Mao Khean, a wildlife research project coordinator with WCS, in a press release. ‘Ultimately, 26 nests were successful and one nest was flooded by rain.

Fifty new chicks hatched and left the nests.’ Under the project, teams were hired to protect the vulnerable nests of the cranes, which are the world’s tallest flying birds. One of those hired, Sen Neil, said in the press release that he spent almost two months guarding the nest with other villagers.

‘We worked hard to guard against egg collection and predators until the two chicks were hatched, and left the nest with their parents,’ he said. According to WCS, 500 cranes live in Cambodia and can reach up to 1.65 metres tall.

Leonie Kijewski/Image courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society

Posted on: October 3, 2017 7:50 am

Hello, deer

Andrew Nachemson, The Phnom Penh Post
Tue, 12 September 2017

Four endangered hog deer, once thought to be extinct in Cambodia, were caught on camera in Kratie province for the first time in a decade, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The nocturnal deer triggered a camera trap in the Mekong Flooded Forest set by WWF-Cambodia on Sunday night and in the early hours of yesterday morning. In a statement, WWF-Cambodia said researchers also found evidence of young hog deer hoofprints, inspiring hope of a population increase.

The hog deer species was believed to be extinct in Cambodia until 2006, when it was rediscovered in Kratie. However, they have not been seen again until now. ‘This is fabulous news, and it clearly reflects the hard work of community members . . . these sightings are encouraging and inspiring,’ said WWF-Cambodia Country Director Seng Teak.

‘However, hunting pressure remains a challenge and we must eliminate it.’ Hog deer are listed as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species.

Posted on: September 11, 2017 9:03 pm