NEW YORK (Earth Day, April 22, 2013) — The Wildlife Conservation Society released video footage today collected from a series of remote camera traps that gives an intimate glimpse of families of wild Asian elephants living in a protected area in Cambodia. The footage—taken from Cambodia’s Seima Protection Forest—shows elephant families wandering through the jungle, wallowing in mud holes, feeding, and playing. The stunning images were collected during biodiversity monitoring work by WCS and the Cambodian Government’s Forestry Administration, and filmed by Daniel Morawska, WCS’s Seima Management Advisor. Seima was once a draw for loggers. It is now a haven for 23 carnivore species, including seven cat species, two bears, and the Asian wild dog. The country’s government transformed the former logging concession into a Yosemite-sized protected area in 2009. WCS worked closely with Cambodian governmental agencies to help create the protected area and continues to provide support to ensure the sustainable management of forests and biodiversity. Covering more than 1,100 square miles along Cambodia’s eastern border with Vietnam, Seima is the country’s first protected area designed to conserve forest carbon as one of its key goals. WCS is helping to measure carbon stocks contained in the forest to calculate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it keeps out of the atmosphere. “We released this footage on Earth Day to show that if we work together, conservationists, governments, and local communities can save elephants,” said Joe Walston, WCS Executive Director for the Asia Program. “These beautiful images in Seima Protection Forest are a visual testimony of what conservation success can look like.” WCS pioneered the use of genetic fingerprints obtained from dung to monitor elephant numbers in Seima, working with Professor Lori Eggert from the University of Missouri in the U.S. and the Cambodian authorities. This effort found that Seima contained a regionally significant population both in terms of numbers and genetic diversity, but the animals are still elusive and rarely seen. While working in the protected area in 2010, wildlife photographer Allan Michaud took the first high-quality footage ever filmed of a wild elephant in Cambodia. Last month, WCS and other groups announced the results of a 10-year study showing a 62 percent decline in numbers of Central Africa’s forest elephants due primarily to ivory poaching. Throughout much of the rest of Africa and Asia, elephant numbers are in steep decline due to illegal killing and habitat loss. WCS is currently working with local partners across Africa and Asia on strategies to stop the killing, trafficking, and demand for ivory, as well as working to protect habitat, so that elephants can make a comeback. To help safeguard elephants and other wildlife, WCS’s Bronx Zoo is hosting the 5th annual WCS Run for the Wild on Saturday, April 27. For more information, please go to: www.wcsrunforthewild.org. WCS thanks the Forestry Administration of the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries for its support of its work in Cambodia.
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