Animism and traditional knowledge disappear in virachey national park, cambodia

Gregory McCann, Yi Chung Hsu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Virachey National Park (VNP) is Cambodia’s largest national park at 3, 325 sq. km. (see Figure 14.1) The park was created in 1993 as an IUCN category II National Park when the Kingdom reopened its doors to the world. It is one of only two Cambodian ASEAN Heritage Parks and it was gazetted in an effort to protect the rare fauna of the area, such as tigers, elephants and leopards, and also to establish possibilities for ecotourism (Baird and Dearden, 2003: p. 543). Today, VNP, being part of the Annamite Cordillera, belongs to the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot region and as such has been listed by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund as one of the most endangered tropical forests in the world, see CEPF (2015). Some biologists and conservationists consider these forests the single most endangered forest on the planet (deBuys, 2015). Numerous groups of highlander tribes traditionally inhabit the park’s buffer zone, such as the Brao and Kavet. They are legally permitted to fish, hunt non-threatened species such as wild pigs, and collect non-timber forest products within the park’s boundaries. Highlanders are allowed to hunt deer and pigs, which are abundant in the park, but only using traditional methods such as trapping or crossbows and not guns (pers. comm. Thon Soukhon, VNP Deputy Director, 2014). They consider the largest mountains in VNP ‘spirit mountains’ (see Figure 14.2) and these and other ‘spirit places’ are surrounded by a rich animist folklore, the details of which vary between tribes and villages. Both VNP and the animist culture of the highlanders are under severe threat on numerous fronts, including Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), illegal logging, poaching, encroachment, road-building and other forms of economic development.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAsian Sacred Natural Sites
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophy and practice in protected areas and conservation
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781317384687
ISBN (Print)9781138936294
StatePublished - 12 08 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Bas Verschuuren and Naoya Furuta, selection and editorial material; individual chapters, the contributors.


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