• Open Access

Wildlife decline in Cambodia, 1953–2005: exploring the legacy of armed conflict

Authors


Correspondence
Colby Loucks, World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th St. NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA. Tel: +202-778-9671; fax: +202-293-9211. E-mail: colby.loucks@wwfus.org

Abstract

Armed conflict is a social phenomenon often detrimental to wildlife and wildlife habitat, but the legacy of armed conflict for wildlife in post-conflict settings remains unexplored. We explore the effects of armed conflict on wildlife in eastern Cambodia, particularly the relationships among wildlife abundance, habitat loss, technological change, trade, governance, and local livelihood strategies. Based on ordinal-scale measures, both relative wildlife abundance and species richness declined from pre-1953 to 2005, with the sharpest declines occurring during the 1970s. These declines are consistent with three synergistic social processes: proliferation of guns; emergence of wildlife trade for external markets; and government policies mandating hunting by local villagers. Armed conflict officially ceased in 1991, but conflict-induced changes in livelihoods and continuing non-local demand for wildlife have fostered further wildlife declines. Our study demonstrates that the legacy of conflict for wildlife can be profound and destructive. To address post-conflict challenges more effectively, conservation must be integrated within broader peace-building processes, including disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of combatants.

Ancillary