Sustainable tourism in the Srepok Wilderness Area, Cambodia

2005 - 2011

Local people and endangered animals such as elephants, tigers and wild water buffalo should benefit from a unique wildlife ecotourism initiative in Southeast Asia led by IIED and WWF in Cambodia.

elephant baby caught by camera trapA serious decline in species populations in the last few decades due to unsustainable harvesting and habitat loss has prompted urgent action from the Government, WWF, and other local partners to address this trend. These groups, along with IIED, have identified high-value low-impact wildlife ecotourism as a means of securing the future of these species and their ecosystem through generating financing for conservation activities and supporting local livelihoods as well as ensuring the financial sustainability of the protected area.

The project was designed under the premise that the local communities that are dependent on the use of natural resources within the Srepok Wilderness Area (SWA) are some of Cambodia’s poorest. Also, these communities represent the best chance for genuine conservation of key species within the SWA – they know the species, the area and their own poverty reduction needs.

Communities are unwittingly part of the problem; over-harvesting species and degrading the ecosystem within the SWA so that key species cannot persist. Therefore, the project aims to build awareness, and to create the environment necessary to make sure that costs of avoiding harvesting and other environmentally damaging activities are at least balanced with the benefits received from other sources.

The original Darwin Initiative-funded project successfully piloted community-based monitoring in the 3,500km2 SWA SWA. Its success led to calls from the Cambodian government and NGOs for replication in other Protected Areas. Work is now building on the project's initial success to scale up work in SWA and expanding activities into the Eastern Plains Landscape (EPL) of protected areas and biodiversity corridors. This is as part of an ecosystem approach that aims to safeguard 15,000km2 of globally important tropical dry forest habitat in Cambodia.

One unequivocal success was a Management-Oriented Monitoring System (MOMS) pilot led by community rangers in SWA which clearly shows potential replicability throughout the region. The next step is to train community-monitoring teams across EPL to conduct MOMS independently as a means of building stronger support for conservation activities.

Further, this project will expand capacity-building by the provincial Wildlife Ecotourism Management Board (WEMB). It will also develop a community tourism homestay initiative and environmental awareness and education activities. All of these activities begun under the first DI grant, but need extra momentum to expand to the landscape level.This project aims to improve the capacity of Cambodian government and communities to benefit from sustainable management of globally significant biodiversity.

You can watch a series of videos related to this project below:

Mondulkiri wild honey
This film documents the production of wild honey by local people in the protected Mondulkiri region to sell to tourists as an additional form of income. Utilising non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to sustain livelihoods for continued honey production in the medium- to long-term also encourages protection of the forests and biodiversity within it.

Green fields of Mondulkiri (Khmer)
Khmer video documenting the approach and the work achieved in the Mondulkiri Protected Forest. Video is in Khmer.

Mondulkiri Protected Forests: The making of a protected area (English)
Mondulkiri Protected Forests: The making of a protected area (Khmer)
This documentary details what WWF Cambodia and its government conservation partner, The Forestry Administration, has achieved in the protected forest by laying foundations for effective protected forest management, and shows how this approach has been used to begin supporting local livelihoods and increase community ownership of this unique and globally irreplaceable dry forest landscape. Video is also available in Khmer


Additional resources

Ecotourism and PA Management in Nepal: Experiences and lessons learnt

WWF Greater Mekong Cambodia Country Programme Ecotourism Feasibility Study

WWF Greater Mekong Cambodia Country Programme MIST Specialist - Evaluation Report

Feasibility for a community-based wildlife monitoring system for the Srepok Wilderness Area Project in the Mondulkiri Protected Forest, Cambodia 

Community based forest management briefing paper

Poster 1 - Future developments

Poster 2 - General information

Poster 3 - Activities and accomplishments

Poster 4 - Species (Kymer and English)

Information flow diagram for MOMs work (Kymer)

Mind map for community rangers

Ecotourism brochure

Press and media

Modelling species distribution at multiple spatial scales:gibbon habitat preferences in a fragmented landscape. Animal Conservation journal article 

Coverage of the project's latest news in the WWF newsletter Jan 2010

BBC news covering the issue of risk of tiger extinction within the area

Coverage of the project's latest news in the Darwin Initiative January 2010 newsletter

Coverage of returning rare crocodiles returning to the SWA in IUCN's Crocodile Specialist Group Newsletter July-Sept 2009

Coverage of tigers returning to the area in our funder's August 2009 newsletter

Coverage of the project's latest news in the WWF newsletter June 2009

Calves, cubs and conservation: pictures

Spotted and snapped

African-style ecotourism boost for Cambodia

Project was also featured on the BBC website:
The BBC’s Guy De Launey joined WWF and IIED for a mountain bike trek through the Srepok protected wilderness area of Mondulkiri province in northern Cambodia...

National Geographic coverage
Tigers, elephants returning to war-torn Cambodia forest....

National media coverage in Cambodia 2009-10

Project links


Darwin Initiative information on project in Cambodia 

Darwin Initiative information on similar project in Vietnam

More about Sustainable tourism on the IIED site


Darwin Initiative

The Darwin Initiative assists countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) through the funding of collaborative projects which draw on UK biodiversity expertise.

Danida (2005-2008)

WWF Cambodia

WWF is the lead on project implementation in Cambodia. WWF is the world’s leading independent environmental organisation.

WWF Cambodia's latest newsletter

Forestry Administration Cambodia

The FA is the key government agency in the Eastern Plains responsible for management of state forest land outside of protected areas. It also has responsibility for managing the largest protected area in the landscape – Mondulkiri Protected Forest (MPF).

Ministry of Environment

MoE manages 24 of Cambodia’s 27 protected areas including Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary (PPWS), one of two priority protected areas WWF supports in the EPL.

Wildlife Ecotourism Management Board (WEMB)

The WEMB was one of the key outputs of the initial Darwin Initiative project. It is comprised of government, community, private sector, and NGO representatives, and is chaired by the Provincial Governor. Its main function is to guide the development of sustainable ecotourism projects inside protected areas and in other high biodiversity value areas across the EPL.

In addition, the following key partners have also been involved, officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries (Forestry Administration), Environment, and Tourism; The Dry Forest Coalition; Mondulkiri provincial authorities and protection forest management board; Mondulkiri communities; Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary; and the Cat Action Treasury.