This section of the website is to inform you as truthfully as possible about what is currently happening within the Virachey National Park. Gibbon Spotting Cambodia are not only concerned with the gibbons alone but also the habitat in which they live. To put it simply, the natural habitat inside the Virachey National park is being destroyed through miss management, lack of government support and illegal logging.
We hope that after reading this section, you will pledge your support by liking both our ‘Gibbon Spotting Cambodia’facebook page but more importantly our ‘Save the Virachey National Park Page’.
The truth about what is happening in the area.
Back in 2009 Ban Lung was a small provincial town with the type of natural surroundings that only the most adventurous of tourists would seek to explore. Access to Ratanakiri was poor to say the least, with only a dark red mud road leading from the turning outside Stung Treng all the way to Ban Lung. Driving along this road was the start of a wildlife adventure; the forest came right up to the roads edge and every few kilometres you may have seen the odd house poking out from the trees. It was an exciting, unforgettable experience; so much so that when you arrived in Ban Lung there was a real sense of achievement that you had actually made it.
If you go there now in 2015, you will find that this mud road has been tarmacked, the town has exploded in size and the area in general has undergone quite a dramatic transformation. The saddest part however is that along the entire 120km stretch of road leading up to Ban Lung, you can expect to see either rubber plantations where virgin forest once existed or vast areas of fallen trees where plans to build factories, rice fields or yet more rubber plantations are currently being drawn up.
So how has all this been possible in such a short space of time? It appears as though in recent years, massive land concessions have been given to Vietnamese and Chinese companies. Through the allure of immense personal gain; private corporations and unnamed government officials have been allowed to profit from the devastation of their countries most precious natural resources. The most dramatic effects however have been felt by the local people and tribes that have existed in these areas for centuries. Without doubt, this covers only the tip of the iceberg, with the full extent of the damage not yet known.
Due to feedback we have received in the past year, we now have to warn our guests that they may hear the sound of chainsaws where loggers are cutting down trees in the distance. On the one hour wildlife / forest walk that you will do upon your arrival in the camp, you will notice the beauty of the impressive, tall standing trees that we are trying to save. On the other hand, you are also likely to see many areas where the trees have already been cut down; in some cases only 400 metres form camp. You may question how this is possible with armed forestry law enforcement at camp. The truth is that they hear the noise, go to the area and confiscate the chainsaws; however the following day the local police then ask the forestry administration to return the chainsaws to the families. In some cases it has been reported that other armed police stand over the local cutters protecting them in their quest to extract the expensive hard woods from the forest. The wood then disappears and either heads on lorries to Phnom Penh or over the border in to Vietnam, never to be seen again. This trade of course lines the pockets of the rich and puts the local people in harm’s way and creates a stalemate between the forestry administration and the other governmental offices and individuals that are profiting from this atrocity.
How you can help save the gibbons (Donations)
The first way that you can help this area of Cambodia is to visit our project, experience the gibbons and observe the local issues in person . With a third of your money going directly to the local communities in the area, local people are now able to improve their own lives by becoming involved as guides, moto drivers and forestry law enforcement.
The main focus from the conservationists should be to first protect the area around the gibbons and the research camp. If this can’t be done in the near future then there will be no safe natural habitat for the gibbons to live in. You may think that this should be a pretty straight forward problem to solve by getting the support from the government, the conservationists and the Forestry Administration. However in reality as you have read above this is not as straight forward as you might believe it should be.
With our understanding of the bigger picture surrounding these issues, we have created 3 steps that we feel are vital in solving this problem and saving the Gibbon Spotting Project:
1) The area around the gibbons and the research camp needs to be clearly mapped.
2) This area then needs to become a protected conservation area with strict law enforcement.
3) The people involved in illegal logging need to be brought to justice.
At this moment in time we are a long way from this happening as the powers that be in Cambodia are still only interested in lining their own pockets. Until corruption measures are brought in to place the situation unfortunately looks bleak however with your continued support, we can push to really make a difference in this area. The first way is to support the ‘Save the Virachey National Park’ facebook page and for every person that comes on the trek to post a picture of themselves next to a fallen tree. We can then gather this information and present it to the Forestry administration to help them in their efforts to get a foot hold in government.
Here are some links to some related newspaper articles: