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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New wildlife unit ready to roll

New wildlife unit ready to roll

AN international conservation NGO working with the Cambodian government is

launching a new program to stop wildlife poachers and smugglers in their

tracks.

WildAid, which is based in San Francisco and recently opened an

office in Phnom Penh, has partnered with the Department of Forest and Wildlife

and the Military Police to design and train a new wildlife protection unit that

will begin investigating and arresting traffickers.

On June 29, WildAid

completed a two-week training of 50 officers from Cambodian military, police and

forestry units. The intensive course featured hands-on instruction by former US

enforcement agents, as well as lectures from Cambodian experts on subjects such

as wildlife laws, litigation and enforcement actions.

Each lecture

session was followed by drills and role-plays of different scenarios, ranging

from identifying informants and collecting evidence to raiding homes and

arresting suspects.

"Now I'm ready to go investigate the markets and

restaurants in Phnom Penh where wildlife is being sold," said participant

Chamroeun Piseth, an investigator for the Royal Gendarmerie in Phnom Penh. "So

many species are endangered already and if we don't move quickly we're going to

lose them forever and our children won't ever know them."

WildAid has

already provided training to help Bokor National Park combat illegal poaching

and logging. Since January 1, Bokor officials have confiscated 8,827 snares and

52 chainsaws, and arrested 19 loggers, said Chey Yuthearith, director of Bokor

National Park.

In retaliation for the successful crackdown, loggers

launched a grenade against park rangers on June 13, Yuthearith

said.

Despite the progress being made, WildAid President Suwanna

Gauntlett says that much of the kingdom's wildlife is threatened by rampant

poaching and trafficking, as well as by habitat destruction from illegal

logging.

"Cambodia is a major target of this global trade, with its vast

array of exotic animals, and it is also a transit point for wildlife

traffickers," Gauntlett said.

"It's like the drug trade, but it could be

considered worse, since this form of contraband [wildlife] cannot be reproduced

overnight."

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