Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity - A Kingdom of Cambodia / Goetz-Project
Nature Conservation Centre in the Angkor region
The temple of Angkor, an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, are said to be the ruins of the largest preindustrial city in the world. Due to its prominence and geographical position, Angkor has become one of the main tourist attractions of the region.
The Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), which is situated near the holy valley of a 1000 Lingas, is the first Nature Conservation Centre in Cambodia. Its aim is to contribute to the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity in the Angkor region. A breeding facility for highly endangered animal species and a centre for education and information of the local population as well as tourists from all over the world are the core of this project.
The main goals of the ACCB are:
- Conservation breeding (and in the long-term re-introduction and/or re-stocking) of some highly endangered species found in Cambodia;
- Rescue Center for injured or confiscated wildlife
- Education of local people and capacity building to assist in environmental conservation and management, as well as environmental education focusing on local and international conservation problems, and the development of awareness programmes for specific target groups (communities, students, tourists);
- Examples of sustainable use of natural resources with community involvement; for example ACC-Bee, Solar project, production and trade of local products;
- (Field) research relevant to nature conservation problems.
A "Memorandum of Agreement" for the establishment of the nature conservation centre was signed by the Cambodian government in May 2002 and a suitable 25-hectare area was assigned to the project. It is situated at the foot of Phnom Kbal Spean in Kbal Spean, 40 km north of Siem Reap.
Prime Minister Hun Sen laid the foundation stone in April 2003. At the beginning of 2004, the first areas of the centre were put into operation. The breeding facility with several enclosures, a quarantine station, an education building and a library are in use.
Since 2006, the education centre offers courses and lectures in environmental education for rangers, staff from the forestry administration and other public authorities as well as for the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. A mobile education unit gives lectures in the villages and organises events on environmental topics. The project managers Isadora Angarita Martinez and Markus Handschuh carry on the expansion of operations since the beginning of 2007.
Conservation of vultures, storks and cranes
Vultures are important for the ecosystem and prevent the outbreak of many diseases by fast disposing of carcasses. In many South Asian countries the stocks of vultures have been decreasing drastically since the early 1990s. The decline is caused by Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug commonly administered to domestic livestock. Cambodia is one of the few Asian countries where Diclofenac is not currently used for veterinarian issues, however the Cambodian vultures suffer from an increasingly dramatic food shortage. Therefore so-called "vulture restaurants" have been established, i.e. semi-permanent feeding stations that provide supplementary food. This measure is accompanied by monitoring of population numbers and nest protection.
The ACCB is part of a nationwide program to protect the vultures and finances the vulture restaurant in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary as well as ongoing monitoring and conservation measures in this area.
A second project supported by the ACCB serves the conservation of large birds such as storks and cranes. The eggs and young birds of these species are often collected for human consumption and the illegal wildlife trade.
The local population is actively involved in conservation work and gets rewards for reports of the nest sites and their subsequent protection. Thus the long-term conservation of nature yields higher profits than the short-term exploitation. Offering such incentives for conservation is an effective and cost-efficient way of protecting the globally threatened large waterbirds.
Since the year 2008, the ACCB supports wildlife monitoring and bird nest protection activities of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, in northern Cambodia.
Besides environmental education and the implementation of conservation projects throughout the country, the ACCB includes a breeding centre for endangered native species and a rescue centre for wildlife which was seized from illegal wildlife trade. After sufficient recovery, the animals are released into suitable and safe habitats. Individuals that belong to certain endangered species or are not fit for release may be integrated into breeding programs with the long term goal to establish a captive safety population or to release the offspring.
Endangered animals which are held in the ACCB are for example several primates, Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica), Greater Adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) and Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) and endemic water snakes. The rescue and breeding centre receives frequently Leopard Cats (Prionailurus bengalensis), Asian Palm Civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and Malayan Porcupines (Acanthion brachyura).
Environmental education and socio-economic approaches
Environmental education is an important part of nature conservation. It increases people's awareness of environmental issues and their responsibility for their environment. The ACCB education centre creates an active learning environment which informs on environmental issues, encourages critical thinking and promotes a personal attitude towards these issues.
The ACCB offers training workshops and seminars. Additionally, adults are invited to events in the evening, and there are lessons for kids in local schools.
The ACCB's Environmental Education Program addresses not only the local population but also international tourists and visitors of the ACCB with exhibitions and guided tours. Special tourist activities in the villages generate an extra income to the families. The large portion of the profits is allocated to a community fund which supports all members of the village and enables development projects.
A project concerning sustainable beekeeping has been realized with great success. ACCB had initiated a breeding programme in the villages between Angkor und Kbal Spean in order to protect the local bee populations and to provide an alternative solution to the plundering of the wild beehives. Local communities can learn about and be updated on techniques for making bee baskets and how to take care for the bee hives. Additionally, local communities become familiar with sustainable breeding methods and wax and honey extraction. ACC-Bee has become the most successful and leading apiculture project in Cambodia. After completion of the ACC-Bee project, the team continues the activities as independent consultants.
Use of solar energy
An alternative energy source is required, as power supply from the public electricity network does not reach the ACCB site. The best choice for sustainable power was the use of solar energy. Because of the high sunlight irradiation, this form of energy production fits optimally and also serves as a show-and-tell object for energy supply in the region.