As we mentioned in our post on Wildlife Alliance and the Chi Phat eco-tourism project, the state of wildlife conservation in Cambodia has historically been pretty dire. Hunting for trophies and food is one problem, but another huge issue is the trafficking of animals to be sold as pets or for medicinal purposes (the use of bear bile is one particular example). Growing work to combat these problems is becoming more successful, but in the process it raises another dilemma: what to do with the animals rescued from captivity?
The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) is based an hour’s drive from the main temples of Angkor, at the base of the Kbal Spean waterfall, and is working on the answer to that question. The centre takes in birds, reptiles and mammals that have been either rescued or donated by former owners, caring for them and seeking where possible to release them back into the wild.
But more than just a rescue centre, ACCB is a hub for the study of animal species and conservation techniques (hosting many volunteers and university students from around the world) and has a large education program that aims to teach local communities the value of the wildlife and ecosystems around them. As many of the people engaged in the illegal wildlife trade view it as a much needed source of income, one of ACCB’s newer projects combines the educational element of their work with economic empowerment – ACCB donates seeds of valuable mushroom to families and shows them how to grow them, allowing them to supplement other farming income with this rather than through illegal logging of hunting.
The centre itself is not primarily a tourist attraction – caring for the animals comes first. However, every day at 1.30 small groups are allowed in to get a one and a half hour tour of the facilities, so after a morning spent searching for carvings in Kbal Spean we had an afternoon learning about ACCB.
There’s a big range of animals being cared for on site, many of which are at risk or critically endangered. There are several Silver Langurs, Slow Lorrises, a Pangolin, Civets, Leopard Cats, Gibbons, Peafowl, Ibises, Box Turtles…a saddening range, considering they were all at one time or another pets or about to be smuggled across the border. More....