Project Spotlight: Vathana Tuy Champions Elephant Conservation in Cambodia

November 27, 2018
Goldman Prize winner reading to students in Siem Bok Cambodia

Vathana reading with students from Siem Bok near Prey Lang. Photo credit: Wild Earth Allies

In 2010, Tuy Sereivathana (Vathana) won the Goldman Environmental Prize for introducing innovative solutions to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Cambodia, empowering local communities to cooperatively participate in endangered Asian elephant conservation. Today, Vathana leads the Cambodia program focused on protection of Asian elephants in Prey Lang forest as program director at Wild Earth Allies. According to Wild Earth Allies, “Prey Lang Forest is the largest remaining lowland evergreen forest in the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, encompassing eight different forest habitats that are home to at least 55 threatened species, including the endangered Asian elephant, a keystone species upon which the health of the ecosystem depends.”

Since 2015, the Prize has provided support to past Prize winners through a grants program. In 2017, the Prize awarded a grant to Wild Earth Allies to embark on a campaign building on Vathana’s efforts in elephant conservation. In this new campaign, Wild Earth Allies focused on monitoring Asian elephants and other threatened wildlife species, improving sustainability of agriculture to decrease forest encroachment, raising environmental awareness among stakeholders, and involving local communities in elephant conservation. Major accomplishments of the campaign include:

Wildlife in the Prey Lang Forest of Cambodia

Wildlife sighted in Prey Lang Forest from left: Asian elephants, banteng, and Silvered langur. Photo credit: Wild Earth Allies

  • Vathana with Prey Lang forest officer, Stung Treng, holding an image of Asian elephants as seen from Wild Earth Allies’ cameras. Photo credit: Wild Earth Allies

    Setting 20 camera traps in strategic locations in the forest to assess elephant population, behaviors, and breeding status, and to monitor biodiversity. At the time of reporting, Wild Earth Allies has observed and recorded 24 different animal species with the cameras, including Asian elephant, gaur, Malayan sun bear, wild pig, and leopard cat.

  • Monitoring elephant family groups of at least 16 individuals, including one-year-old baby elephants—examples of successful breeding and population growth in the area.
  • Expanding engagement with ethnic Kuy communities through surveys among 14 villages in the Siem Bok district. Survey results showed that 80% of people interviewed were interested in supporting elephant conservation activities to reduce human-elephant conflict. Community members were able to conduct wildlife surveys and patrols in key habitat areas after these trainings.

Following Wild Earth Allies’ success from this phase of the campaign, the organization is looking to expand its work. Efforts would include protection of key food and water sources for elephants, elephant collaring and research, and surveys of other flagship species in Prey Lang. The organization is actively raising funds to support its field activities in Cambodia to achieve these goals and sustain its impact. If you would like to learn more about Wild Earth Allies or support its work, visit its website.