From: Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published June 1, 2011 08:40 AM

Photos: Cambodians rally as 'Avatars' to save one of the region's last great rainforests

Two hundred Cambodians rallied in Phnom Penh last week to protest the widespread destruction of one of Southeast Asia's last intact lowland rainforests, known as Prey Lang. In an effort to gain wider media attention, protestors donned dress and make-up inspired by the James Cameron film, Avatar, which depicts the destruction of a forest and its inhabitants on an alien world. The idea worked as the rally received international attention from Reuters, CNN (i-report), MSNBC, and NPR, among other media outlets.

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Located between the Mekong and Stung Sen River, nearly half of Prey Lang has never been logged, making it an incredible rarity in Southeast Asia, whose forests, according to Conservation International (CI), are the world's most imperiled. Tigers, Asian elephants, banteng, gaur, and Asiatic black bears are all still found in the 200,000 hectares of forest. In all up to 50 endangered mammals, birds, and reptiles may live in the forest. In addition to its wildlife, the largely unprotected forest is also home to a quarter of million people who are largely dependent on its renewable resources, many of whom are from the Kuy indigenous group.

Still the biodiversity and ecosystem services, including vital watersheds, provided by the forest have not stopped officials from handing out large tracts of the rainforest for clearcutting. Recently, the Cambodian government has granted a concession of over 6,000 hectares to a rubber company. Clearing for biofuels also threatens the forest.

"This bulldozing of the forest is done without any environmental impact assessments," Chet Ton, a community organizer with a local NGO, recently told the Cambodia Daily, "and the companies try to hide [information]."

The villagers also delivered a petition opposing land concessions in Prey Lang signed by 30,000 people to Cambodia's National Assembly. The petition calls on the Cambodian government to rescind any current permits and establish Prey Lang as a protected area.

Article continues: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0531_preylang_avatar.html

Photo credit: Prey Lang Network

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