Interview with a dedicated ranger from the forest in Mondulkiri province, eastern Cambodia



Posted on 31 July 2012  | 
"I love going into the forest and escaping the noise and I enjoy seeing animals in the forest," Vong said.
© Conservation Canine/University of Washington / WWF-CambodiaEnlarge
Usually, when imagining forest rangers you think only of enforcement activities, such as confiscating illegal timber, but in the Eastern Plains Landscape, a 16,000 square kilometer stretch of tropical dry forest in Cambodia, some of WWF’s trained rangers are carrying out research. Using camera traps, line transects, and other research methodologies, these rangers are working hard to piece together an understanding of the landscape’s biodiversity which, just 60 years ago, was compared to an African savannah because of its species richness.

Vong, a 25-year-old man from Mondulkiri province in the northeast of Cambodia, represents the future of conservation research in Cambodia. We sat down with Vong sheltering under a ranger outpost building, built in the traditional Khmer style, deep in Mondulkiri Protected Forest to find out more about his work.

Can you explain how you became a WWF researcher?

When I was thinking about what to study at university I sat down with my family and they suggested animal science and veterinary medicine because of my uncle,  who works in the provincial department of agriculture and because Cambodia’s economy is very dependent on agriculture. I didn’t imagine working for WWF then or consider being a ranger.

Anyway, I went off to university and my love for wildlife grew as I learnt and I became closer to animals. Two months after graduating a job with WWF came up. I applied immediately and I got the job, I was about 22 then, and I am still here 2 and a half years later.

Your family seems to really understand you because they suggested this path to you, but how do you explain your job and why you do it to your friends?

My friends always ask me about what I am doing. I explain that we are working to conserve wildlife. Sometimes they don’t understand why I would want to sleep in the forest in a hammock for a whole week. I tell them about how good it is to work with the animals and surrounded by nature.

I spend a lot of time explaining to them about why we need to conserve the animals. I tell them of the past when we used to have kouprey and many many tiger and elephants and that now the forests are quiet. I tell them about other countries, like India for example, where they have many many young researchers. 

I think they are starting to understand more and so do other young people across Cambodia. I do try to educate and explain to as many young people as I can about why it is so important

You mentioned sleeping in a hammock, do you find being in the field challenging at times?

No. The challenges relate more to the difficulties I face with collecting data. Many people come into these forests for whatever reason and their presence messes with the data because they disturb the animals. When they disturb our tests or scare the animals it is very frustrating and, importantly, time consuming.

There must be something that you personally find hard?

The rainy season can be quite challenging because the roads become impossible. Very often we have to spend half a day cutting bamboo to make a bridge for crossing flooded areas. That is half a day not collecting data!

Now that I have poked a challenge out of you, what do you love about your job?

I love going into the forest and escaping the noise and I enjoy seeing animals in this good landscape, which should be full with them. Spotting the animals makes me very happy.

Finally, Vong the Eastern Plains Landscape manager, Mark Wright, has said that you are the future of conservation research in Cambodia. How does that make you feel?

(Smiling from ear to ear) It makes me feel so proud. I will try to work hard to improve myself so that I can be the future of conservation. I need to learn much more in order to make this statement true.
"I love going into the forest and escaping the noise and I enjoy seeing animals in the forest," Vong said.
© Conservation Canine/University of Washington / WWF-Cambodia Enlarge

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