Angelina Jolie launches Cambodian conservation drive. She wants to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of endangered forests

By Gary Susman
Updated August 08, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Angelina Jolie has a new cradle of life. It’s nearly 150,000 acres of endangered forest in northwestern Cambodia. On Thursday, the country’s government approved Jolie’s latest humanitarian drive in Cambodia, a $1.5 million project which aims to protect those forests from illegal logging, mining, and wildlife poaching, the Associated Press reports.

”We are very pleased and would also like to thank… Ms. Angelina Jolie for her interest [in conservation],” Environment Minister Mok Mareth said upon signing an agreement with Cambodian Vision in Development, the organization overseeing the forest project. ”She loves the area, the people and the [natural] resources there,” CVD executive director Mounh Sarath said of Jolie. In addition to the conservation project, which includes environmental education for local villagers and training of forest rangers, Jolie is backing CVD efforts to help veterans and amputees in the landmine-strewn region, which was still under the control of the genocidal Khmer Rouge forces just five years ago. In April, Mounh Sarath announced that Jolie had pledged to give CVD $5 million over the next 15 years.

Jolie’s attachment to Cambodia goes back to the filming of the first ”Tomb Raider” there and has included work with Cambodian refugees on behalf of the United Nations and the adoption of her son Maddox from a Cambodian orphanage. She’s currently having a house built there so that Maddox can spend some of his childhood surrounded by his native culture.