I am currently a Research Program Officer at Free the Bears (FtB), Cambodia. I completed my master degree in Biodiversity Conservation at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2015. My relevant experiences were about conducting both biological/ecological and social research in order to understand problems on biodiversity and wildlife, and throughout the research findings to provide the recommendations on wildlife conservation in my home country. In my roles with Free the Bears, I have been and am currently involved in implementing the various research projects which responsibilities on coordinating the field research teams, collecting, managing and analyzing data etc. I am also coordinating with other partners, including mentoring scholarship students conducting bear-related research for Master on Biodiversity Conservation and government agencies to secure research permits and approvals. I am involved in wild bear distribution research in Cambodia and Vietnam, and now I am also working on a social research project to understand attitudes towards bears and bear part use in Cambodia which is the collaborative work between Free the Bears and San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) aiming to reduce the demand for bears and bear parts – it is one of the main steps towards reducing the threats to wild bear population in the country. In addition, I am also assisting with ex-situ ecological and behavioural bear-related research in Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.
I am very thankful to be a part of the Oxford Martin Programme on Illegal Wildlife Trade as Visiting Fellow. We have known the current status of bears is threatened by the huge demand within Cambodia and across the world especially for Asian traditional medicine which is still a barrier to the conservation success of these species. Cambodia is reported to have the highest bear seizures in the region. According to our current social research on attitudes and the demand of bear and bear part use, conducted across different geographic areas in Cambodia, it was suggested the next step needed was to reduce those demands. Through my fellowship, I hope to learn enough to feel confident to carry out a behaviour change campaign, from design, setup, through to evaluation. During this fellowship, I will work on next grant phase from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services project which is a collaboration between FTB/SDZG to implement and develop a theory of change to reduce the demand and change behaviour for bear parts in Cambodia. This opportunity will be an important platform to empower my work to improve the conservation of the rare Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanu) and endangered Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) in Cambodia.