The Sam Veasna Center (SVC) was established in 2003 by employees from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) - Cambodia Program, as a memorial to Sam Veasna, a pioneering Cambodian conservationist who discovered many of the most important sites for conservation in Northern Cambodia. The Center’s original mission was broad: to promote wildlife conservation awareness and education in Northern Cambodia.
Because of the prominent role of the WCS Cambodia Program in conservation in Cambodia the organisation received many requests from people visiting the country that were interested in seeing some of the wild places, and the birds and animals found there. These requests often became an interruption to ongoing work. There was a clear need for a specific place that interested tourists could go to for information and trip organizing. It was decided that a group of Khmer guides would be trained to provide access to the areas where WCS works, and the Sam Veasna Center was the ideal vehicle to develop the program.
As SVC has grown, it has become involved in education and capacity building working in village in protected areas. Today the main objective of SVC is to provide local communities with a sustainable livelihood from international tourists who visit these sites to bird-watch. In return for the income and employment received they are asked to sign no hunting and land use agreements, which are monitored by Ministries of Environment and Forestry patrol teams advised by WCS. This award winning approach was pioneered in Northern Cambodia at Tmatboey and has since been expanded to at least five sites nationwide.
During the rainy season our guides are passing on their identification skills to local guides at the sites we visit to ensure the best chance of locating target species when we visit by using up to date local knowledge.
The SVC guides also train the villagers in hygiene, cooking and guest house management so that tourism provides the village with a livelihood and also helps to improve living standards.
Hong Chamnan of WCS at Ang Trapaeng Thmor. 366 Sarus Crane were recorded in April 2010
Tmatboey: model ecotourism benefiting birds and people
At Tmatboey our flagship site, the success of this model has been proven. In 2008 the village won The Equator Prize for Poverty Reduction through Conservation of Biodiversity and was a winner of the 2007 WildAsia Responsible Tourism Award. Payments to the Eco-tourist Committee for accommodation, food and local guiding now exceed $10,000 per annum for a small forest community where average annual income was <$250.
The Tmatboey Housekeeping Team and Tmatboey Eco-tourist Committee (photographs by Eleanor Briggs)
Money from ecotourism has helped towards the cost of building and running a school in the village and providing new wells (photographs by Eleanor Briggs).
The real success of the project is measured in the populations of the birds it was set up to protect. Since 2002 the numbers of both critically endangered species of Ibis have risen dramatically in the project areas.
By taking a trip with SVC you are helping directly conserve Cambodia's natural environment and the livelihood of those who depend on it.
Support Sam Veasna Center
Let us show the birds and wildlife of Cambodia. By choosing to travel with SVC you are directly helping local communities in key conservation areas to realise the value of their local environment and help in its conservation.
Buy Ibis Rice, which pays a premium to farmers who grow their rice while maintaining habitat that critically endangered species rely upon.
Make a donation of cash or field equipment, we are always looking for binoculars or scopes to help train SVC and local guides, moving up the scale GPS equipment would be useful in survey work and laptops for the village communities to help manage the ecotourist facilities.
Buy publications or products, as well as providing additional income for the center this helps to support additional livelihoods.
We would like to express our sincere appreciation to current and past supporters, in the Wildlife Conservation Society, IUCN NL, Oriental Bird Club - Smythies Fund, the Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences, and CRAVO. SVC also heatily thanks Eleanor Briggs, Colin Poole, Joe Walston and the countless individuals, birders and friends who have visited the center, taken birding trips with us and made generous donations.