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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Animal trophies cause outrage

Animal trophies cause outrage

S

HOPS in Phnom Penh's Street 168 are openly selling skins and trophies from

endangered Cambodian species, to the outrage of conservationists.

Assistants offered Post reporters skins of the extremely rare clouded

leopard for as little as $40, tiger teeth for $70-100, leopard skulls for $30,

gaur skulls for $70 and Eld's deer antlers for $20.

The tip of an

elephant's tail or the end of its trunk could be had for as little as $20 for

those looking for something a little different.

Many of the trophies

were stacked haphazardly on top of each other on shelves and gathering

dust.

One shopkeeper even had a live scaly anteater, another rare

Cambodian species, trussed up in a string bag. The pathetic creature, which

desperately struggled to get out of the sack, was on sale for $30. Strung up

alongside furs and displayed on the pavement outside were roasted stomachs from

assorted animals which are used in traditional medicines.

Thor Thorsson,

a safari guide in Africa, who alerted the Post to the trade said: "It is

obscene. If Cambodia keeps squandering its natural resources in this way there

soon won't be any left.

"It's terrible for tourists to see and they

[Cambodians] are going to drain their resources very, very quickly if this is

allowed to go on."

The half dozen shops selling the rare animal products

are nearly all next door to each other in the street and also retail traditional

Cambodian medicines, some of which use animal products.

On the street

outside the shop lay a dozen small monkeys or loris, which had been gutted and

roasted over a spit.

The cooked carcass sells for only $5 and is often

immersed in a large jar of white rice wine to make a medicine which is thought

to cure many ailments in the chest and stomach.

Alternatively medicine

is made by crushing the roasted carcass with a mortar and pestle and adding the

pieces to honey.

Hunters can easily catch slow-moving loris, which are

found in most forest areas in the country. They are killed by slitting their

throat. Even their blood is collected and used for medicine. The bush babies'

internal organs fetch slightly more than the carcass and are used for a variety

of medicines to cure ills ranging from stomach inflammation to sexually

transmitted diseases.

The owner of one of the shops, who refused to be

named, said: "I understand that this business is against Cambodian and

international law, but the government should protect the hunters first. Anyway

if I am not doing this, many other dealers would do the same thing."

The

shopkeeper said he is supplied with the rare animal products by middlemen who

buy them from hunters in Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri.

He said most of his

customers for the trophies are Cambodian dealers who then sell the goods to Thai

counterparts either in the border town Poipet or in Thailand itself.

The

shopkeeper added: "We have a few Westerners coming in, they mostly come to look

for a souvenir but they don't often buy."

The rare animal products trade

is not very profitable and most income is derived from selling Cambodian

traditional medicines, he said.

Once several years ago a Thai

businessman asked to buy a skull of the kouprey or jungle cow. The shopkeeper

said it would cost $5,000 but his suppliers were unable to find one. An

expedition to Mondolkiri in April found evidence that there may be as few as ten

head of the beast remaining.

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