Worldwide, the rainforest is shrinking at an alarming rate. As the world population increases, the demand for agricultural and industrial land is on the rise, and nowhere more so than within tropical zones. Corroborated effect of uncoordinated forest development, poor planning, unsustainable land use practices, land grabbing, and land speculation for private gain are among the main causes driving rainforest destruction.

Forest loss threatens the existence of thousands of species that live in the forest. Many of the world’s indigenous people live in forests and rely on them to continue their way of life. Degradation of tropical rainforest jeopardizes water security by causing severe drought that further diminishes rainfall, humidity, and soil quality leading to even great threats to communities’ livelihoods, health and economic growth. Deforestation threatens unique, important and endangered plants and animals with extinction, and most importantly, directly contributes to global climate change as rainforests store much of the world’s carbon dioxide.

Deforestation in the tropical belt throughout the world has ripple effects across the planet. However, people living in rural rainforest communities feel the effects of deforestation and climate change first and most acutely – and to potentially devastating outcomes. Almost 80% of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas, nearly all of whom work as subsistence farmers, making their food security almost entirely dependent on natural resources and weather patterns, such as consistent rainfall and predictable seasons.

In 1990, 73% of Cambodia’s land area was covered by forest. Rampant forest destruction by logging concessionaires took place through the 1990s, until a suspension was placed on concessions in 2002, when forest cover was at 61%. Yet illegal logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, land grabbing, uncoordinated mining, and other unsustainable development are still taking their toll on Cambodia’s forests. By 2010, only 57% of Cambodian land was forested (World Bank, World Development Indicators).

Wildlife Alliance works in the Cardamom Mountains of Southwestern Cambodia to stop deforestation and protect Cambodia’s endangered wildlife. Stretching across 2 million acres, the Southern Cardamoms are part of a mosaic of Protected Areas and Protected Forests that form Cambodia’s largest intact forest, one of Asia’s last remaining elephant corridors, and one of the region’s most important watersheds.

To protect this watershed, its people and biodiversity, Wildlife Alliance has partnered with the Royal Government of Cambodia to directly address these threats to the forest and watershed. Wildlife Alliance trains and equips forest rangers to patrol the Southern Cardamoms and provide direct protection to forests and wildlife. We also work to reconnect and revive fragmented forest through a reforestation program that mitigates the damage already incurred through years of slash-and-burn farming and provides sustainable, alternative income to local communities.

Wildlife Alliance also works with the Cambodian Government to revoke agricultural land concessions that would have destroyed important forest habitats without providing sufficient economic benefits. Through these lobbying efforts we have saved 510,228 hectares (1,260,801 million acres) of mainland Southeast Asia’s largest rainforest.