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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rare wildlife product seizures spike

Rare wildlife product seizures spike

Officers from the government’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team inspect restaurants in Koh Kong province for illegal wildlife products, later releasing a live civet cat (inset) rescued from market vendors.

SOUTHEAST Asian wildlife law enforcement authorities seized more than 10,000 endangered animals and animal products in the second quarter of 2009, according to a recent update report from ASEAN's Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN).

The report documents the seizure of 5,296 live animals and 4,827 dead animals, animal parts and animal derivatives with a minimum estimated value of US$3.6 million across Southeast Asia.

The figures represent a sharp increase on the first three months of the year, which saw a total of 5,410 animal seizures.

It also said a total of 30 people were arrested for illegal wildlife trafficking in five countries, including Cambodia, between April 1 and June 30 this year.

ASEAN-WEN, which claims to be the largest wildlife law enforcement network in the world, documented just one major enforcement operation in Cambodia over the period, a May 21 raid on a Phnom Penh restaurant.

During the raid, the government's Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team seized eight dead pangolins, four live cobras and parts of others, five live and three dead turtles, and several dead giant geckos, as well as wild pig and deer parts.

Positive local trends
Despite the increase in seizures across the region, such confiscations have decreased in Cambodia in recent years, government figures show.

According to a Forestry Administration document obtained by the Post in June, the number of illegal wildlife seizures in Cambodia has been steadily dropping since 2005, when there were 6,294 seizures, compared with 2,933 in 2008.

At the time, experts put the drop in seizures down to the rapid rescue team's work and increased penalties for wildlife trafficking offenses.

Meng Sinoeurn, a military police officer who participated in the May 21 raid, confirmed that the owner of the restaurant was arrested and tried at Phnom Penh Municipal Court under Article 96 of the Forestry Law, which carries hefty fines for "those who process, stock or import rare wildlife species or specimens".

Meng Sinoeurn said smugglers could face more serious punishment for pursuing endangered wildlife.

Article 97 of the law carries prison terms of up to 10 years for anyone who has "hunted, killed, traded or exported endangered wildlife species".

Ty Sokhun, director of the Forestry Administration, said wildlife crime in Cambodia had always operated on a small scale, and added that the Kingdom has been sharing information with other regional countries for five years.



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