Some of Cambodia’s and the world’s most endangered species still call the Cardamom mountains home, including 54 animals on the IUCN Red List. But as the forest cover disappears, so does the wildlife. It will take major conservancy of the evergreen forest for these fabulous residents to thrive again, but that is the goal at Shinta Mani Wild.
WILD by name, WILD by nature… Shinta Mani Wild occupies a pristine 865 acres river valley on the southern border of the Cardamom National Forest.
In 2010 Sokoun Chanpreda and I, Bill Bensley, purchased this concession in the park with no intentions of destroying it, but without a clear vision of what to do with it. It was a “Buy first, think later” moment.
For years we just visited the valley trying to understand it and get a handle on what to do with it, and in the process went down a few wrong paths.
We began to understand the serious threats of logging as we saw bullock carts of hardwoods leaving the site. Duh! Putting up a tall Trumpian wall all around the park so that it could regenerate properly was one great idealistic option, but despite our pleads , Donald would not come up with the cash.
The idea of a small camp was not a new one as I had a very successful experience designing the Four Seasons Golden Triangle Elephant Camp of Chiang Rai, Thailand. Our good teammate, Jason Friedman, opened that camp as GM so we thought well why the hell not? But if we do, it must rock, and make industry waves as that was the only way to get travellers to these parts unknown.
The industry disrupting idea of a high yield low impact camp, with the main mission being a sustainable way to support the policing of the forest via Wildlife Alliance, seemingly is getting traction.
You would think that maintaining just 15 tents, cooking a bit of food, and going for the occasional bike ride might require a handful of staff? Well in fact, we employ about 120 good folks, 70% are from the local village and some of those were poaching and illegally cutting trees.
Shinta Mani Wild does not have any single use plastics, including much of our back of house supply chain which is even more difficult to do. We bottle our own water and use recycled containers.
Direct protection to forest and wildlife
Founded in 1995 by Superwoman Suwanna Gauntlett, Wildlife Alliance – previously known as the Global Survival Network – is an international non-profit organization with ongoing in-country programs in Cambodia and completed projects in Thailand, Myanmar, India, Ecuador and Russia.
Shinta Mani Wild funds a dedicated Wildlife Alliance ranger station within its camp; guests are invited to join the rangers in their diverse work, which includes dealing with a multitude of snares and the animals they catch, arresting poachers and loggers and seizing the likes of chainsaws and home made guns and on a happy day the release of captured wildlife.
The best birthday gift of my life was when Wildlife Alliance released three Civet cats on property on Feb 2nd 2019. My 39th birthday fyi! Just north of Wild lies our hero Mr. Nick Marx’ Wildlife Alliances rehabilitation and release center at Chi Phat. It is an amazing experience. I would highly recommend animals lovers, conservationists and ecologists alike to visit.
Wildlife Alliance Stats Board
Animals released in Cardamom National Park
Items confiscated by Wildlife Alliance rangers
Illegal Wood (m²)
Cleared Forest (ha)
Items removed during Wildlife Alliance ranger patrols
Bird Nets (m)
Forest Fires (ha)
Pangolin Nets (m)
Turtle Hooks (m)
Last update 24 October 2023 — At Headquarters
The Royal University of Phnom Penh
Onsite expert naturalists
Graduates from Phnom Penh’s Royal University have joined Shinta Mani Wild as the camp’s onsite expert naturalists.
In future, the camp hopes to run a student program to foster learning and raise awareness of Shinta Mani Wild’s protected habitats. One of these graduates, namely Mr. Munny, is in charge of the camera traps we have placed throughout WILD to monitor animal activities as they are way too scarce. Ask him about last night's findings on film as he is always most keen and happy to share.