Forestry Administration officers sent two suspected wildlife smugglers to court in Stung Treng province yesterday after they were arrested while allegedly smuggling disembodied heads and hooves of the increasingly rare Chinese serow – a type of wild goat – into Cambodia from Laos, officials said.
Provincial Forestry Administration director Iev Ektha Savatty said that the suspects Ou Vandy, 40, and an accomplice whose name he could not provide, were arrested on Tuesday, and reportedly confessed to transporting the five serow heads and 20 hooves from Pakse, Laos, in order to sell them in Kratie.
“We have [preliminarily] charged the two suspects with transporting and trading wildlife illegally. On Wednesday afternoon our men sent them and the evidence to the provincial court,” he said.
According to Kratie provincial police chief Reach Sokhon, the men may have been trying to pass off the serow as hog deer, an even rarer and more valuable mammal, hunted for its purported medicinal value in treating postpartum conditions, pain and broken bones.
“Some brokers always cheat the people about this wild animal because the people do not know exactly about the hog deer or the other kinds of deer. Some wild animals that I used to see looked like goats,” Sokhon said.
Eak Vandy, a Stung Treng military police commander who participated in the crackdown, said suspect Vandy had pegged the price of one 45- to 70-kilogram hog deer at as much as $1,200.
However, serow are also “in significant decline”, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Sarah Brook, a flagship species officer for Flora and Fauna International, said yesterday that serow, like hog deer, are also at risk of poaching.
“There is trade in serow parts for medicinal value,” Brook said, noting that serow favour forested habitats across the region. “But because there is a trade, they face hunting everywhere they are.”
A forestry administrative official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said a wildlife trader could face anywhere from five to 10 years in prison.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE