1998 Green Forum Articles

1999 Green Forum Articles

2000 Green Forum Articles

2001 Green Forum Articles

2002 Green Forum Articles

2003 Green Forum Articles

2004 Green Forum Articles

Tigers in a Private Zoo  (11 December)
What helps some hurts others  (1 December)
Trees AND People  (8 September)
Fighting the Trade in Wildlife  (20 August)
Deforestation and Fish   (17 August)
Cambodia's Different Approach to Protecting Wildlife   (14 August)
Danger for the Cranes  (2 August)
Global Warming in Cambodia  (31 July)
Dust in the Rainy Season  (23 July)
Under attack from all sides...
Hope for the Tigers?
Tigers Caught by Cameras--and Landmines
Cameras Catch Elephants, Too
High-tech Tracking   (24 June)
Using EVERY Part of the Cow   (31 May)
Deer Still at Maryknoll   (14 May)
World Tree Day in Cambodia   (20 March)
Government Collusion in Illegal Logging?  (6 February)
Illegal Logging: the Trees Keep Falling  (7 January)

11 December 2001

Tigers in a Private Zoo

Last three cubs were born to a 10-year old tiger held in a private zoo owned by Nhim Vanda, a member of the Cambodian parliament. Vanda now has nine tigers,two lions, two baby elephants, and fourteen yellow crocodiles. He has appealed to the international community to help subsidize the $100 a day he spends for animal feed and worker salaries. Conservation officials and environmentalists are not likely to help, having suggested in the past his private zoo and wildlife buying actually encourages poor villagers to hunt for wild animals.

1 December 2001

What helps some hurts others

Ethnic villagers in Cambodia's Ratanakkiri Province are just 70 km (42 miles) downstream from Vietnam's new dam on the Se San River. But even before the dam became fully operational earlier this year, the river's level has fluctuated wildly, even rising and falling 5 to 10 feet in one day. Some water levels have risen high enough to sweep away livestock, crops, fishing equipment, and children. Two years ago, after one of the sporadic floodings, most of the villagers' pigs and chickens died, skin rashes broke out on children after bathing in the river, and fish catches fell. The new Yali Falls Dam is the largest dam and hydroelectric power project in the lower Mekong Basin. The Mekong River Commission is supposed to mediate disputes over water resources in the Mekong basin and did bring together Vietnamese and Cambodian officials to discuss the problems. Fluctuations have been more controlled in recent months, but other problems persist, and now another dam has been proposed on the same river but only 50 km from Cambodia.

8 September 2001

Trees AND People

"Trees are not simply important species, they are absolutely crucial species, probably the most vital things for the health and longevity of all oxygen-dependent life on earth--and far more so than the large bipedal mammalians species that has spent so much of the last 3,000 years cutting them down. Understanding their centrality to the earth's processes, we may understand our own vastly more limited role and thereby develop the species humility that, if anything will, may get us to reconsider our reckless and lethal impact on the life systems and life forms of this planet and get us to learn that we are but one part of the precious web of life--not one whit more important than any other part except that we have, and are demonstrating, the power to destroy it all."

Kirkpatrick Sale in Small Is Beautiful

20 August 2001

Fighting the Trade in Wildlife

Last week environmentalists, scientists, and officials met in a province of Vietnam which is a hotspot for trafficking in endangered wildlife. Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos took part in this conference aimed at protecting wildlife which is unique to the three countries but which is increasingly at risk from poverty and the demands for animal parts for traditional medicines. Most of the poached wildlife moves by road and foot across the region's borders, but it is estimated that 3.5 tons of wildlife also arrive by air each week in Hanoi alone.

17 August 2001

Deforestation and Fish

One prominent and important characteristic of the larger ecology of Cambodia has been the inundated forests surrounding Tonle Sap Lake. During the monsoon season each year, as the lake enlarges, millions of acres of nearby low-lying forestland have been flooded. Similar flooding takes place in several other provinces. Ecologically the flooded forests are very important for breeding large fish for commercial purposes. The submerged trees provide decomposed leaves for food, and the underwater trunks and branches offer a spawning ground and protection in bad weather. In recent decades, however, a great deal of aquatic deforestation has taken place, and one third of the forests that used to flood each year have disappeared. As a result about seventy percent of the big fish population has disappeared also because of the loss of habitat, and greater numbers of smaller fish have appeared. Millions of dollars of revenue have been lost along with the larger fish.

14 August 2001

Cambodia's Different Approach to Protecting Wildlife

Bad Karma

2 August 2001

Danger for the Cranes

The 1.3-meter tall red-headed eastern sarus cranes are the world's tallest flying birds. They frequent a wildlife reserve in northwestern Cambodia, and the bird population had been rising because of public education and an effective crackdown on hunting. Recently, however, thirty of endangered cranes were killed for food by farmers in the area so authorities have gone to the province to renew their education campaign. Wildlife experts believe only about 1,500 of the cranes are still in existence, and since 1999 they have been protected by a royal decree.

31 July 2001

Global Warming in Cambodia

According to a government study released this week, near one-half of one percent of Koh Kong Province could be submerged within the next 100 years if global warming continues to cause the seas to rise. The predicted one-meter rise will cause major changes to the coastline and low-lying areas of this southwestern province because, unlike other coastal provinces in Cambodia, Koh Kong does not have high hills and mountains behind the shore. Global warming is mostly the product of greenhouse gases, and a first report has been issued about the prevalence of those gases in Cambodia where they mostly come from cars, motorcycles, livestock, and rice farming.

23 July 2001

Dust in the Rainy Season

It is the rainy season now in Cambodia, but the past four or five days have been mostly dry. That brings the dust back, and this time Japanese and Cambodian researchers determined that the dust level in Phnom Penh is decidedly unhealthy. Measurements taken in 15 locations found dust levels that were higher than most cities in the region and hundreds of times higher than cities in neighboring Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. It is almost impossible to keep anything on flat surfaces such as tables and bookshelves because of the need to constantly remove the dust. Environmental officials blame transportation and the construction of buildings, sidewalks, and roads for the thick coating of dust on everything.

15 July 2001

Under attack from all sides

After thirty years of war, the threat of leftover mines in their habit, and being hunted by underpaid, ill-fed, and heavily armed soldiers, Cambodia's wildlife is now under threat from a new quarter. An increasing number of restaurants serving exotic wildlife dishes are springing up across the country. More than a dozen are now operating in Phnom Penh alone, and conservationists predict the systematic destruction of Cambodia's already endangered wildlife.

6 July 2001

Hope for the Tigers?

Leading tiger conservation experts sounded a rare note of hope in a recent conference in Bangkok. While the number of tigers in the wild has declined to perhaps 5,000 to 7,000--no one know for sure how many are left--these experts spoke of a goal of having 100,000 tigers a century from now. One of the most hopeful factors is that there are still rather large areas of tiger habit that are intact. Cambodia, Laos, and Burma have relatively few tigers left in the wild but have large areas of forest necessary for the regeneration of the tiger population. Jungles alone are not enough, however. The officials pointed out that a first step would be the reintroduction of the prey of tigers--mostly deer and wild pigs--in sufficient numbers to support more tigers. And perhaps most importantly, there has to be the political will on the part of governments to stop poaching, control deforestation, and link large areas of habit so that the remaining tigers can roam freely and propagate.

2 July 2001

Tigers Caught by Cameras--and Landmines

The automatic motion-sensing cameras used in northern Cambodia's jungles caught pictures of a previously unseen Asian water buffalo, wild dogs, elephants, leopards, and tigers. Modern high-tech equipment proved an invaluable aid to the conservationists. Shortly thereafter, however, two of the four tigers caught on the film were found dead, killed by more modern technology, landmines used by poachers along the trails used by the tigers.

27 June 2001

Cameras Catch Elephants, Too

The automatic, motion-sensing cameras installed in the jungle in Cambodia's northeast made the first photo of the wild asia water buffalo, but they also caught pictures of other forms of Cambodia's larger mammals. Here a family of elephants trigger the camera's sensor as they move through the jungle.

24 June 2001

High-tech Tracking

Asian water buffaloCambodia generally has a rather dismal and disappointing record of environmental protection. One success recently, however, has been the first photo of a wild asian water buffalo in Cambodia's northeastern jungle provinces. Previously it was known to exist only in parts of India and along the Thailand-Burma border. Hoofprints had been seen by hunters in Cambodia but no one had actually seen one first-hand until this photo.

The use of the motion-activated automatic cameras to document some of Cambodia's elusive wildlife is another success story in itself. An eight-person team, all Cambodians, spent four days on foot in May setting up eight cameras near salt licks and other places animals gather in the jungle. The results have brought applause for both their initiative and their professionalism.

31 May 2001

Using EVERY Part of the Cow

After years of destroying the forests for cooking fuel, many Cambodian villagers know that wood for their daily fires is hard to find and expensive to buy. But the Swiss NGO, Lutheran World Services, has introduced some methane stoves in certain areas, and these burn buffalo dung. When 12 kilograms of buffalo chips are mixed with water each day, it produces enough methane for a family's cooking and boiling water. The methane stoves cost about $1500 each, but the first ones were given free to the villagers several years ago on the condition that they would build the 3-square meter concrete spheres that form the holding tanks. Now LWS provides most of the materials but a family wanting a stove must contribute about $70-$100. That's a considerable amount, but the stoves' advocates can point to the history of their use to show that the money invested in the stove is regained through not having to buy firewood.

14 May 2001

Deer Still at Maryknoll

Several times during last week's meetings, those of us who have spent a lot of time at Maryknoll for meetings over the years were lamenting that we hadn't seen any deer so far this trip. Usually in the wooded area on the back of the Bethany property, it's not unusual to see 2, 3, even 4 or 5 deer grazing, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. Finally yesterday when I was walking back from the seminary, I saw two of them in the woods. They looked up, noted my presence, and went on grazing. They are really beautiful animals, and it still amazes me that they can be found here within 30 miles of New York City.

20 March 2001

World Tree Day in Cambodia

To celebrate World Tree Day in Cambodia, 200 students and 50 Buddhist monks today began planting the first of ten thousand trees near the Kirirom National Park in Kompong Speu Province. That area was once heavily forested but has been almost destroyed by logging and by the villagers collecting too much wood for firewood. The planting of the native species of trees was sponsored by two local NGOs, one of whose names means "Green Shadow."

6 February 2001

Government Collusion in Illegal Logging?

The environmental watchdog group Global Witness has angered the Cambodian government by producing a report which claimed that illegal logging--a persistent problem in this country--was being aided by government forestry officials. The report was rather damning, with Global Witness claiming that its five staffers have uncovered serious illegal logging which 800 Forestry and Wildlife department employees had failed to detect. Private companies with concessions for logging consistently abuse their rights, and the report suggests that they operate with the same impunity as before a Hun Sen-inspired crackdown two years ago. The report also claims that the judiciary tends to favor concessionaires "and to obstruct the [Department of Forestry and Wildlife] and the reform process." In addition to the content of the report, the government was incensed by its timing, appearing just two days before the all-important donors' meeting at which international NGOs and institutions like the Asian Development Bank gather to see if reforms are taking place and earlier recommendations are being heeded.

In a related incident two inspectors from Global Witness are being threatened with jail terms for "trespassing" while monitoring logging operations for the agency. The company bringing the trespass claims was noted in the Global Witness report for logging infractions in both its Kratie province concessions and in its plywood factory.

7 January 2001

Illegal Logging: the Trees Keep Falling

At a government strategy meeting about the practice of illegal logging along the Thai border in western Cambodia, an official acknowledged that the illicit activity continues unchecked even in spite of a recent military crackdown in that area.  Illegal loggers come across the border from Thailand, and cut and remove the valuable timber with relative impunity.  The Cambodian army has supposedly been ordered to help curtail the illegal logging but is hindered by the fact that there are no roads into the jungle on the Cambodia side of the border.  Another problem, which the official acknowledged, is that some Cambodian villagers and government officials provide assistance to the poachers.

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