Sun Bear

Carry on up the Mekong: Part 2

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Cambodia’s Conservation Conundrum

In an earlier blog we were following the progress of GBBO’s Sue Perkins on a BBC2 broadcast journey 3,000 miles up the magnificent Mekong River from the delta in Vietnam to the river’s source in Tibet.

Cambodian fisherman on the Mekong River
Cambodian fisherman on the Mekong River

Episode 2 saw Sue head away from the river in Cambodia to uncover some of the challenges the country faces in reconciling the need to provide income for its people following the ravages of the Khmer Rouge regime, and the desire to preserve and protect the country’s fabulous natural heritage. Illegal logging, poaching and animal trafficking remain a serious challenge for Cambodia’s authorities, but Sue also visited a number of our favourite conservation projects that provide hope for the future and demonstrate how thoughtful tourism can aid in the protection of the natural world.

The Mondulkiri Project in remote eastern Cambodia was established to raise funds through tourism both to provide a secure retirement for old working elephants, and to help to protect the natural environment in which Cambodia’s dwindling population of wild elephants remain. Closer to the capital Phnom Penh is the excellent Free the Bears sanctuary at Phnom Tamao, a refuge for rescued Sun and Asiatic black bears. The project aims to rescue bears captured for the restaurant trade or held as exotic pets, to provide a permanent home for those that are unable to be released and promote education about the plight of the animals across the region.

A third IVT favourite is located back on the Mekong, near the village of Kampi, just north of the town of Kratie. The Irrawaddy River dolphin is one of the most endangered species in the region, and is found now only in very small populations in a couple of locations on the Mekong. Local conservationists have teamed up with fisherman to offer low-volume dolphin spotting tours, helping both to supplement local incomes and motivate the conservation of these incredibly rare mammals amongst the local community.

We are delighted to be able to support these projects by recommending them to our clients who visit the wonderful country of Cambodia, offering visitors the opportunity to contribute to both conservation and supporting the local population. Please ask us if you’re planning a trip to Cambodia and we’ll be delighted to build a visit in to any of these projects.

Lovely laid-back Laos

In Episode 3 Sue headed north over the border into lovely Laos – an IVT team favourite, and somewhere we feel that deserves far greater attention than it currenty receives. Starting in the idyllic Si Phan Don or 4,000 Islands region of southern Laos, close to the border with Cambodia, Sue travelled north through Laos’ breathtaking scenery to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang. This town of temples and palaces was once capital of an ancient Laos kingdom, and retains both a magnificent architectural heritage and a wonderfully spiritual atmosphere as the heart of Laos Buddhism.

The programme has highlighted both the beauty and the challenges of life on the Mekong, and as with all developing countries there are significant issues for the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to confront in the coming years. We hope you took as much out of the programme as we did, however, and might be inspired to discover the wonderful people and landscapes of the Mekong region for yourself.

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