Kampong Chhnang provincial authorities on Saturday intercepted and seized a truck loaded with 300 kilograms of live snakes and tortoises, though the wildlife traders managed to escape, a provincial Forestry Administration official said yesterday.
Thorng Vandy Ravuthy, director of the Forestry Administration, said the live animals included 65 snakes, weighing 212 kilograms, and 30 tortoises, weighing 111 kilograms.
“Those animals were released back into nature; the tortoises were freed into the Tonle Sap river’s flooded forest area, while the snakes were freed in the forests, where their living and reproduction will be ensured,” he said.
The crackdown operation was launched after Vandy Ravuthy’s forces received a report from a forestry community network saying that a truck with Phnom Penh plates was loaded with wild animals, and had departed from Pursat province, he said. The truck was on its way to Phnom Penh via National Road 5.
His team worked with local authorities to set up a checkpoint to intercept the truck. Authorities spotted the truck about 150 metres from the checkpoint in Samaki Meanchey’s Sethei commune, but the two men inside suddenly abandoned the vehicle and ran toward a village.
This is the second large-scale wildlife bust in the last two weeks. On June 12, a 44-year-old driver was arrested in Prey Veng after a failed attempt to smuggle more than 600 kilograms of wild animals across the border to Vietnam.
He was released the next day after promising to pay a fine at the provincial court.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) technical adviser Sarah Brook said last Tuesday the Ministry of Justice with the support of the WCS, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the US Embassy hosted a forum to raise more awareness of the seriousness of wildlife trafficking crimes.
The forum brought together several relevant ministries, where some issues and recommendations were identified, such as the need to have specialised judges to handle environmental cases to increase the prosecution and conviction rates, as well as higher specialisation in criminal investigations by law enforcement agencies, according to a WCS statement.
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro