Restoring the Wetlands of the Lower Mekong Delta, Cambodia

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust is one of the world’s leading conservation organisations dedicated to saving wetlands for people and wildlife.

Cambodia’s wetlands are some of the world’s most valuable ecosystems, supporting a wealth of endangered bird, fish and plant species and providing a vital source of food and income for vulnerable rural communities. But in just 15 years, half of Cambodia’s wetlands have disappeared.

This project will restore two globally important protected areas in the Lower Mekong Delta, which support half the regional population of the Sarus Crane – the world’s tallest flying bird and an iconic flagship species of open wetlands. Agricultural encroachment, invasive species and the overharvesting of wetland resources have led to a dramatic decline in the Sarus Crane population, and without urgent action to restore its habitat, the regional population will be lost forever. The project will restore 200 hectares of degraded habitat by working with local communities to clear invasive species, and will educate 1000 local people and schoolchildren on the importance of wetlands and the sustainable use of natural resources. The project will also provide training and support to a community ecotourism initiative, enabling it to provide inspiring outdoor experiences for a growing number of visitors and increase income by 25%, generating much-needed funds for community development and wetland conservation.

The Update

This project is now complete, and amongst its successes include:
– As a result of local community empowerment through the project, Anlung Pring Protected Landscape has been designated as an East-Asian Australasian Partnership Flyway Site. It has also been designated as a Community Protected Area (CPA), which creates long-term secure access rights for local communities. These designations will lead to greater protection of the site and increased international investment.
– Over 1,200 people at Anlung Pring (AP) and Boeung Prek Lapouv (BPL) have a greater understanding of the importance of wetlands and the need to use natural resources sustainably after taking part in the environmental awareness and education programme.
– 116 hectares of habitat at BPL is in improved ecological condition through restoration and invasive species clearance. Less than hoped due to weather and the difficulties that invasive species removal poses, but WWT will continue this activity and reach the 200ha target as it is important to support the health of the wetland ecosystem.
– A new business model has been developed for the AP Community-based Ecotourism initiative (CBET), including redesigning its services and products. An ecotourism volunteer scheme has also been initiated for AP-CBET. During the project, 7 volunteers from Cambodia, UK, France, and Hong Kong have joined the programme.
– The CBET building has been redesigned and painted, and new equipment provided, enhancing the visitor experience. The CBET enterprise activities directly supports 35 households, either fully or partially.
– New markets are now in place to sell the traditional products of AP, including Lepironia and Hyacinth bags, boxes and baskets, in Cambodia and also the UK in some of WWT’s wetland visitor centres.
– A social enterprise called “CamConscious Tourism”, which developed the first Rural Homestay booking app for Cambodia. AP has been selected as one of their main promotional sites. Information about AP booking can be found on their website.
– A promotional video called “Charms of Anlung Pring Community Led Ecotourism” has been produced and published on the social media including YouTube.
– And finally, WWT reported that the EOCA grant helped them to leverage additional funding for their wider programme of work at AP and BPL. This funding will make a significant contribution to our community-based conservation work in the Lower Mekong Delta over the coming years.

Image: Sarus Crane. Image credit: WWT