Southern Cardamom

Southern Cardamom

13,000,000+ tons of CO2 emissions avoided to date
3,000,000 tons of CO2 avoided per year
  • Location: Cambodia
  • Project Developer: Wildlife Alliance
  • Standards: VCS, CCB

Project Summary

The Cardamom Rainforest Landscape is one of the last unfragmented rainforests remaining in Southeast Asia and is a critical part of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. Using global best practices for forest protection and community development, the Southern Cardamom REDD+ project prevents more than 3,000,000 tons of carbon emissions annually and protects 497,000 hectares of tropical rainforest in South-West Cambodia. This area is globally significant for ecosystem servicing, wildlife conservation, and community livelihoods and serves as the region’s most important watershed, climate regulator and carbon sink.

Intervention Model

The Threat

In 2001, there was a tiger and elephant hunting crisis in the Cardamom
Rainforest Landscape where 29 tigers and 39 elephants were poached as a result of the construction of a new highway. It was at this time that the Wildlife Alliance came to the project area to conduct emergency interventions. At the same time, anarchic slash and burn cultivation was destroying thousands of hectares of the forest area each month, leaving the Cardamom Rainforest on the brink of destruction.

Following the success of reducing threats to the forest and wildlife, the Wildlife Alliance was asked to help design and implement a long term Protected Area Management Plan by the Royal Government of Cambodia to help protect the landscape, its forests and its wildlife.

Since 2014, the threats to the Cardamoms have accelerated, driven by massive Chinese investment in Cambodia as part of their national Belt and Road Initiative, requiring a more intensive response from the project.

The Solution

In 2016, Wildlife Alliance and Wildlife Works, in partnership with Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment, established the Southern Cardamom REDD+ project. Through the sale of REDD+ credits, the project has implemented a direct threat-based approach to protect the forest and safeguard wildlife. The project partners with communities and governments to generate sustainable income opportunities for the local community, and works with more than 15 villages to implement sustainable community-based ecotourism.

The project also leads a unique and effective boots-on-the-ground law enforcement model that focuses on training, supervising, equipping and mentoring law enforcement rangers. The effective field-level partnership between staff from the project, the Ministry of Environment, and the Military Police is a unique ingredient of the project’s success. There are currently 131 active rangers operating 24/7 across the full area of the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape. Instead of a traditional hands-off “business as usual” conservation approach, Wildlife Alliance directly supervises and manages all law enforcement at the project. Rangers are well paid and receive life insurance and full health benefits, have the capacity and equipment to work effectively and safely, and are led and motivated by inspirational supervisors. This is critical to the success of the project, where a culture of excellence in conservation, zero tolerance for corruption and achieving high performance has been cultivated.


Demonstrable conservation results have been achieved through the project’s intensive action-oriented and results-based approaches. Noted as the best protected body of rainforest in the region, significant reduction of deforestation has taken place in the Cardamoms. Since 2006, the project has achieved zero poaching of Asian elephants and supported recovery of ungulates and carnivore populations. The community projects directly benefit 29,000 villagers from 15 different communities, and with an award-winning model of community based ecotourism has been regarded as the best community driven bottom-up conservation in tropical Asia.

Impact Highlights








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