Conservation International is working to protect this critical forest for people, nature and climate in Southeast Asia.
Conservation International has been researching Prey Lang to better understand its ecological value since 2005. Our science helped define the boundaries of this protected area, Cambodia’s largest. Now, we are helping communities establish sustainable rice production to provide a source of income in exchange for environmental protection. In addition, we are developing a carbon project to ensure sustainable financing is available to protect the Prey Lang forest for the benefit of all.
Why is it important?
Prey Lang is one of the most biodiverse forests in Cambodia, and more than 250,000 people live in and around the protected area. Most of them rely directly on the habitat for their subsistence and livelihoods.
This forest is one of the largest remaining in the region. It includes a variety of habitats, from rainforest to grasslands to marshes.
Prey Lang provides critical refuge to 55 threatened species, including gibbons, Asian elephants and nearly 45 percent of all of Cambodia’s bird species and one-third of the country’s bat species. It is home to 538 plant species and 80 percent of the most endangered indigenous tree species in Cambodia.
Prey Lang provides water to the Stung Sen and Stung Chinit rivers. Both flow into Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake, home to one of the world's largest freshwater fisheries, which is essential to the country’s economy and food security.
What are the issues?
Illegal logging and mining
Despite the forest’s protected status, illegal logging continues at an alarming rate. Many of the most prized timber species, such as rosewood, are already very scarce, and loggers have begun to remove other valuable species.
Hunting, especially with wire snares, is the biggest threat to biodiversity in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, the illegal wildlife trade is flourishing in Prey Lang. Many mammals, lizards, birds and reptiles caught in Prey Lang are sold in local markets or exported to China and Vietnam.
Prey Lang’s forests are under intense pressure from agriculture, the primary livelihood in the area. Logging for domestic purposes remains largely unregulated. Meanwhile, new roads are cutting into sensitive areas, breaking up habitats and facilitating access for illegal logging and poaching.
The forests of Prey Lang store an estimated 120 million tons of climate-warming carbon. This is roughly equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from 26 million cars. Deforestation releases this carbon into the atmosphere.
Protected area management
Conservation International has been working in Prey Lang since 2005. To support the designation of this area as a legally protected wildlife sanctuary, we worked with various levels of government to help define the sanctuary’s boundaries across four provinces. These were formalized in 2016, becoming the nation’s largest protected area. Currently, we are partnering on the USAID-funded Greening Prey Lang project to enhance biodiversity conservation, improve protected area management and provide sustainable financing for this protected area.
Carbon for communities
Together with our partners, the Cambodian Ministry of Environment and the Japanese company Mitsui and Co., we are implementing a carbon project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by protecting the Prey Lang forest, and improving livelihoods and law enforcement practices. As a part of this REDD+ project (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) we've helped to quantify forest carbon stocks, provided training to local and provincial governments to monitor the tropical forest, and provided support for improving livelihoods and law enforcement training. Through the sale of these carbon credits we aim to finance long-term forest protection.
Improving community livelihoods
Conservation International helps communities in the Prey Lang protected area establish alternative, forest-friendly sources of income in exchange for environmental protection.
Through the Ibis Rice program, we are working to improve local communities' livelihoods in partnership with the local nonprofit group Sansom Mlup Prey. Farmers receive a premium for their rice by following organic and sustainable practices.
Non-timber forest products
Many communities collect and sell resin, honey, rattan, bamboo and wild fruits directly from the forest. Conservation International has delivered training to support these sustainable activities. Still, more work is needed to connect these communities to markets.