My name is Lor Kimsan. I was born in Sambo Village in Sambo District of Kratie Province, which is located along the Mekong River. Now I live with my wife and two daughters in Kratie Town, Kratie Province, next to the large Mekong River which has abundant biodiversity, such as flooded forests, numerous species of fish, and the very special Irrawaddy dolphins. From when I was a young boy to my adulthood, my family relied heavily on the Mekong River for fishing as part of our livelihood activities, and used its water for all purposes. Like my family, millions of people rely entirely on the Mekong River by extracting fish for food, and have taken benefits from rich river sediment and water for agricultural purposes for decades. Unfortunately, Cambodia went through decades of protracted war which depleted and decreased fisheries resources, flooded forests, and biodiversity resources. This especially impacted the Irrawaddy dolphin, which is a rare species in the world, as well as some fish species.
From 2001 until now, I have had the opportunity to join my team at WWF Cambodia to protect and conserve biodiversity in the Mekong Flooded Forest Landscape area. Although there are a number of hindrances to overcome, such as field trips during strong wind, rain, heat or boiling sun, and needing to navigate rocky, fast-flowing water while implementing our activities, my team still manages to get our job done successfully because we have a strong will to contribute to the protection of biodiversity along the Mekong River, especially the Irrawaddy dolphins. The decline of dolphins indicates a deterioration in the quality of the Mekong River and the other species that depend on the river, resulting from climate change and other threats from human activities. Currently, Irrawaddy dolphins are found only in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, where they inhabit nine deep pools in the dry season. These include Anlong Kampi, Chroy Banteay, Anlong Kan tuy koh ngeav, Anlong koh pdao, Anlong koh sam pan ksach makak, Anlong koh dam bang in Kratie Province, and Anlong Tbong Khla, Anlong Koh Kon Sat, Anlong Koh Santuk and Anlong Chheuteal in Stung Treng Province on the Cambodia-Lao border.
Cambodia’s Mekong River is a significant river that has provided enormous benefits and livelihoods to millions of people, including supporting the agriculture sector, transportation, fisheries resources and many other biodiversity resources. There is great potential to restore many species that are suffering from human activities. Seeing this situation makes me even more motivated and willing to participate in protecting and conserving rare species such as dolphins, deer, and rare birds. All of these activities are important contributions to the Royal Government, technical institutions, conservation organizations, especially WWF, and authorities at all levels, local people, and the general public living in Cambodia or abroad. We are working to protect and conserve all kinds of biodiversity and protect the Mekong River environment so that it has good water quality. In particular, it is essential to protect Irrawaddy dolphins, whose current population is only around 89 individuals, so that this species can continue to exist and increase its population. Dolphins are very important for tourism and help to improve community livelihoods and national economic growth while also protecting the Mekong River environment for humans in all generations.
I have been participating in research studies on the Mekong River dolphin in Kratie and Stung Treng Province for more than 20 years. My work also includes the study of deer and rare and endangered bird species in collaboration with technical departments and the Mekong Flooded Forest Landscape of WWF-Cambodia. My current work activities include photographing dolphins in order to identify them, monitoring fishing activities within dolphin protected areas as well as the birth rate of new dolphin calves, and performing autopsies on bodies of dead dolphins. I also set up camera traps in Sambo and Prek Prasob Wildlife Sanctuary, survey populations of White-shouldered Ibis and River Terns, protect the nests of rare bird species, and conduct education and outreach activities with communities.