There are many benefits to reintroducing tigers in Cambodia. The most obvious one is perhaps restoration of balance to the ecosystem.
Restoring balance in the ecosystem
Right now, the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape is missing its top predator: the tiger. Without this big cat to keep prey animal numbers in check, things can get out of whack. That said, this may be to the advantage of the next biggest cat, clouded leopards which still roam the Cardamoms!
Few people understand the importance of tigers better than Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who is himself a great guardian of tigers.
Speaking at the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in New Delhi,
Modi stressed that “by protecting the tiger, we protect the entire ecosystem and the ecological services, which are equally crucial for the well-being of human beings.”
WWF, the author of the TX2 goal agrees.“[I]t is important to be clear,” said WWF Cambodia’s country director Seak Teng, “that by saving tigers we are saving much more.”
The great news is that key stakeholders are committed to addressing threats to tigers. Ministry of Environment spokesperson Sao Sopheap emphasised that the government is “[sending a] bigger signal to country, to community, to general public that the government is very serious about conservation.”
Cambodia can contribute to global tiger conservation
Conservationists argue that as one of 13 tiger range countries, Cambodia owes the world every effort to help towards the goal of doubling tiger numbers. Help is at hand with the introduction of enhanced forest protection measures via new ranger stations, plus the expansion of the REDD+ Project which supports and incentivises conservation-friendly activities for rainforest communities in the Cardamoms. This expansion means coverage beyond the current Southern Cardamom National Park, to the northern Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary. Both of these protected areas are included within the proposed tiger reintroduction release site areas.
Tiger Tourism potential in Cambodia
The opportunity to see tigers in the wild via managed tourism sites will no doubt attract visitors to Cambodia, as in India. This opportunity gives tourists a reason to extend their stay in the Kingdom beyond paying a visit to Angkor Wat, which has been an ambition of the Ministry of Tourism for some time. However, for Cambodia to benefit from tiger ecotourism dollars will take significant investment, as noted by Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon: “sustainable wildlife conservation requires ample financial resources.” Mr Khon went on to state the Ministry’s commitment to working with related stakeholders to make this happen. Fortunately, the Ministry of Environment now has a financial mechanism in place to make this happen: the Southern Cardamom and planned Phnom Samkos REDD+ Projects.