Bonn (29 October 2020) – The network of Indigenous communities living in and around the Prey Lang forest in Cambodia is the winner of the GLF 2020 Landscape Heroes award, which celebrates people taking action to safeguard the planet’s biodiversity – often at great personal risk. The network was selected by a panel of experts among 80 submissions from around the world, while environmental specialist Jorge Watanabe emerged as ‘audience favorite’ for his landscape restoration initiative in Peru. Both were announced at the GLF Biodiversity Digital Conference: One World – One Health.
The Cambodian Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) has worked since 2000 to defend Indigenous land rights and protect the Prey Lang forest, which acquired Wildlife Sanctuary status in 2016. In announcing its decision, the panel noted the PLCN’s tenacious work for vulnerable communities and the planet, as well as the potential to replicate and deploy their approach on a larger scale.
The PLCN counts on more than 100 men, women and youth who patrol the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary by motorbike and on foot. They document and geolocate forest crimes with an innovative mobile application, and the network then disseminates the findings among national authorities and media. So far, the PLCN has published eight monitoring reports on the status of Prey Lang, which document the importance of the forest to local livelihoods and international biodiversity conservation; the challenge of illegal logging; and the need for enforcement of the forest law by authorities.
The organization seeks to engage civil society, local authorities, NGOs and research institutions in a peaceful movement for environmental justice and sustainable development. However, following the publication of their monitoring report in January this year, the PLCN was banned from entering the forest, and community patrollers have reported threats of arrest. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in logging inside the forest, as shown by high-resolution satellite images.
The network has been invited to present their efforts at the GLF Biodiversity Digital Conference and will receive EUR 500 in prize money, as well as significant global visibility.
Audience awardee Jorge Watanabe has established restoration demonstration sites in degraded areas of the Peruvian Amazon, which show that it’s possible to recover biological diversity and forest cover – one of the premises of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. The expert and his colleagues at the Center for the Conservation, Research and Management of Natural Areas (CIMA) collaborate with local actors in the districts of Shamboyacu and Tres Unidos with a view to improving environmental health and economic outcomes for local communities.
Runner-ups for audience favorite include the Red Panda Forest Guardians, a local Nepalese group of people working tirelessly to protect the nation’s endangered red pandas, and Tatiana Espinosa, a forestry engineer in Peru who is battling to save the country’s Shihuahuaco trees, which are among the tallest and most ancient of the world’s large trees, and are threatened with imminent extinction.
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