Cambodia’s Environment Ministry wants dolphin areas on UNESCO list

Voun Dara

THE PHNOM PENH POST – The Ministry of Environment has been tasked with compiling data on four areas that are home to Irrawaddy dolphins in Kratie and Preah Vihear provinces.

The report is in preparation for possible inclusion on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Natural Heritage list.

Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said Cambodia is already recognised by UNESCO for cultural heritage, including Angkor Wat, Preah Vihear Temple and the Sambor Prei Kuk temple group, along with other intangible cultural treasures.

“Cambodia doesn’t only have Prek Kampi which is an Irrawaddy dolphin conservation area that we have studied and documented for UNESCO. We have four places we have studied and documented in preparation for being included on the UNESCO World Heritage List,” Pheaktra said.

The four areas are Prek Kampi dolphin Conservation Area, Prek Prasob Wildlife Sanctuary, Phnom Tbeng Natural Heritage site and Tmat Boey Natural Tourism Community.

Pheaktra said there are only three countries that are home to the Irrawaddy dolphin and Cambodia has the most. Cambodia has 92 Irrawaddy dolphins. Indonesia and Burma have around 60.

Dolphins at Prek Kampi in Kratie Province. PHOTO: HENG CHIVOAN

He said Cambodia has taken another step in compiling a list of natural potential areas to prepare for the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the last 20 years, the number of Cambodian Irrawaddy dolphins is estimated to have increased by 13 to 18.

Pheaktra said once the documentation is complete and submitted to UNESCO, he hopes it will help protect and conserve dolphin areas and attract domestic and international tourists.

According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, Irrawaddy dolphins or Mekong dolphins live in three major river systems and two lakes around the world.

These include the Mekong River in Cambodia, the Mhakam River in Indonesia, the Ayeyawaddy River in Burma, the Sungkla River in Thailand and the Chilika Lake in India.

WWF said the Irrawaddy dolphin is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. It is also classified as one of the 58 endangered fishery species in the Royal Government’s Sub-Decree Number 123 dated on August 12, 2009.

“The total number of Mekong dolphins has started to increase from 80 in 2015 to 92 in 2017. This historic increase is the result of effective law enforcement that has been implemented by a total of 72 river guards,” WWF said.

WWF, in collaboration with the fisheries administration, plans to release the estimated number of Irrawaddy dolphin last October.