Land concessions for plantations and mining near the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area could threaten the survival of the black-shanked douc langurs and yellow-cheeked crested gibbon that live there, Conservation International said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.
«The future of these primates will depend largely on government commitment to maintaining the habitats in which they live,» said Ben Rawson, a primatologist with the U.S.-based group.
The 1,150 square mile (2978 square kilometer) conservation area is located near the border with Vietnam, about 165 miles (265 kilometers) northeast of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. The sanctuary holds the world’s largest known populations of black-shanked douc langurs and yellow-cheeked crested gibbons, the New-York-based Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement last week.
Edward Pollard, a Wildlife Conservation Society researcher, said the group counted 42,000 langurs and 2,500 gibbons during a four-year census that ended in April.
The conservation group said the number is «surprisingly large» and «represents the largest known populations for both species in the world.
While the discovery was good news, other scientists warned that economic development could undermine conservation efforts.
Rawson, the Conservation International’s primatologist, said economic development in the form of mining and plantation concessions near the area pose «the greatest threat to these species.
The Cambodian government in recent years has given countless permits for companies to develop plantations and explore minerals in forested and rural areas, raising alarm among conservationists.
Unless the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area is well protected, both primate species will «very quickly end up being uplisted to Critically Endangered,» Michael Hoffmann, a program officer of the Geneva-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, said in an e-mail.
Men Soriyun, deputy director of wildlife protection office at Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, dismissed the concerns, saying the government was determined to protect the area from being lost to development.