Help researchers from the University of Edinburgh work with the Wildlife Conservation Society to end poisoning of rare wildlife in Cambodia

Help us to save some of the most unique wildlife in the world.

My name is Emiel, and I'm a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. My research is all about conservation and how to make it more effective. For the past three years I've been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Cambodia, which means I have the opportunity to make a real impact.

Since 2015, we have known that toxic pesticides are being used to kill wildlife in Northern Cambodia, threatening to deal the final blow to populations of some of the world's rarest and most beautiful birds. I've spent the past year studying this problem and now is the time to turn this into action, but we need your help.

If just 300 people donate £10 each, we can bring together local partners, and take action together to avert this crisis.

Your donation will be used to develop, implement, and test a strategy to reduce poison hunting. Using cutting edge behavioral-research and a team with decades of local experience, we will engage with local communities to create a poison-free landscape, with healthy people and wildlife.

Only a few dozen Giant Ibis remain in Northern Cambodia, and a few individuals have been killed by poisoning



Poisons made from tree barks have been used in Cambodia for millennia to hunt fish and birds, but now they are being replaced by toxic carbofuran chemicals. During the dry season, a small pile of carbofuran left at a waterhole can kill scores of animals, and endanger the health of those who eat them. The long-term effects of carbofuran exposure are unknown, but we do know that local people don't consider it a big issue for their health, and endure dizziness, headaches and fevers. Using this method, hunters are hoping to catch birds and, because poison is not selective, this is threatening to some of Cambodia's rarest species. With less than 100 individuals remaining, even the loss of one critically endangered Giant Ibis or asian Vulture is a disaster for wildlife, but this is exactly what is happening

A local farmer with his poisoned cows

A local farmer transports his poisoned cows away from the waterhole

Purple carbofuran poison left on a log with a dead bird underneath


We have carried out extensive and detailed research on wildlife poisoning, interviewing hundreds of local farmers, hunters, and other people. We now have a better understanding of the psychology and circumstances of the hunter, and the social pressures they face. Using cutting-edge behavioral science, and drawing on experienced conservationists working in the area, we are designing an engagement strategy, to help communities move to a poison-free future. This will use social marketing methods, just like those that have successfully reduced smoking, and increased seat-belt use in the west.

Planning workshops will be held over the summer, so that the pilot can take place at the beginning of the dry season (November-December), when poisoning is likely to start. In our chosen village, we'll hold village events and education sessions, and meet with key villagers to bring them onside. My team and I will, separately, survey the village before and after, to try and understand how attitudes and social norms are changing, and why. We'll then use this knowledge to improve future actions.


Community team talking to local people about their wildlife


We need to raise money to get our campaign off the ground and pilot our strategy. By piloting and evaluating our campaign we will be able to improve our strategy and eventually scale-up to other affected communities. Your donations will be used to produce materials and support local staff as they visit the community, providing survey and educational materials, transport, and food. Specifically, this is what we need:

  • £1,000 to hire two local staff for two months while we conduct surveys and carry out community workshops. (Monthly salaries of £250)
  • £1,000 to support the team while they work in the villages, buying food (~£500), accommodation (~£300), and transport (by moped, ~£200), over two months
  • £1,000 to purchase equipment needed for surveys and village workshops. These include tablets we use to collect data and solar panels to charge them (~£300), printed educational materials and boards to display in the village (~£300), food and drink provided to villagers attending our events (~£200).

The forests of Cambodia




Make a difference

We are raising funds to support this project. We need to hire local research assistants to carry out the research, and support staff to engage with the local communities. We need to design and produce educational materials and support our teams while they're in the field.

How success will be measured

Firstly, we've started to monitor the waterholes close to the villages regularly to detect any signs of poisoning. Secondly, we will carry out surveys before and after our campaign to assess the change in awareness, attitudes and behaviour of the villagers.

What we've achieved

Dear supporters, Today we reached a milestone in our project and ran our first village social marketing event, aiming to reduce the misuse of pesticides in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia. At this event, we invited speakers from the departments of environment, agriculture and health, to inform villagers about some of the risks of pesticide misuse and how to avoid them. Besides changing beliefs, we also wanted to leverage the already existing social norms that make poisoning a controversial thing to do, and give villagers an avenue to express these. To this end we introduced a hotline number allowing villagers to report poisonings. We showed a specially-produced 10 min short film that dramatised a poisoning but showed a community coming together in reporting and preventing future poisoning. We also distributed story books for the kids to remind people of this story. To close off our event, we held a ceremony and asked participants to pledge to keep their community safe from poison in return for a certificate from the commune chief and a poster. The research is ongoing to determine how succesful this event will be! Thanks for your support, Emiel

Ask a question

Find us in Preah Vihear, Cambodia

Your comments

  • Harris Tso 21 April 2018 Reply
    Hey Emiel, good luck on your project!
  • Malka de Lange 8 April 2018 Reply
    Hi Emiel, trying to donate but for some reason PayPal won't accept it. I'll try again tomorrow! Cheers, Malka
  • Richard de Lange 5 April 2018 Reply
    Good verhaal Emiel en veel succes.
Post a new comment
  • 20 Nov 2018

    Grant from National Geographic

    Dear supporters, I wanted to share the news with you that National Geographic Society have awarded me a grant of $10,000 which will go towards this project. Together with your donations, this means we'll be able to do an incredible amount, and I look forward to sharing this with you in the coming months. Many thanks again for your support so far. Cheers, Emiel

  • 31 Aug 2018

    Campaign finished

  • 20 Aug 2018

    End of Campaign

    Dear supporters, Thanks so much for all your support as we come to the end of the crowdfunding campaign. The amazing £1,300 raised didn't reach our target but it will go a long way in the field so I'm very grateful for everyone who's helped us raise this amount. I'm happy to share that I've also recently received $600 from the Society for Conservation Biology, and will be hoping to win some further grants over the coming months. The money you've donated provides a brilliant foundation for our future work. I will continue to post updates through this page, but you can see more of this project on the blogs and social media below: Instagram: emieldelange Twitter: Emiel_delange With best wishes, Emiel

  • 25 Apr 2018

    Learning about community engagement in Cambodia

    Wow! We're just a short time into our campaign and already near half of our fundraising goal. Many thanks to everyone who has supported us so far, we hope you will continue to do so. I've spent the past few days travelling to various villages in the region to observe the awareness raising work of the Wildlife Conservation Society. They do a great job bringing awareness of some of the threatened species living around the villages, and highlighting the potential for communities to benefit from them, such as through ecotourism. Some villages already have really succesful tourism ventures that are benefiting everyone. However, awareness is never enough. Faced by pressures like hungry mouths to feed and the lucrative wildlife trade, it will take more than knowledge of rare birds for local people to be able to make a positive impact. Over the next few months I'll be surveying locals to see what lessons we can draw from these attempts at engagement. I hope we'll be able to move beyond awareness-raising towards a really effective social marketing strategy when we come to tackling wildlife poisoning!

  • 8 Apr 2018

    From the field

    Thanks to all our supporters for the incredible start to the campaign. Here's a video showing some of what we've been doing lately. With your help we can take this to the next level.

  • 5 Apr 2018

    Campaign started

University of Edinburgh

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£1371 donated of £3000 target
32 donors

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