Stuffed wild animals adorn a restaurant counter in Kampong Speu.
series of swift raids on several restaurants in and around Sihanoukville resulted
in 200 kilograms of illegal wildlife meat being seized.
The raids were carried out December 9 and 10 along Route 4 by the wildlife unit attached
to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).
Carcasses of wild boar, binturong (a small tree-living bear), pangolin, civet cat,
monitor lizard and various water fowl and snakes were seized and later burned at
a ceremony organized by MAFF and WildAid, an NGO. The largest haul of wildlife meat
was made at Sihanoukville's Treasure Hunt and Samtov Meas restaurants, while live
animals were seized at Kampong Speu, Sre Klong and Pich Nil markets. The violators
Sun Hean, deputy director of MAFF's Wildlife Protection Office, said penalties of
$200 each were levied on the Sihanoukville restaurants; those who failed to pay were
handed over to the local court. Some, he said, claimed they knew nothing of the new
It is the first time the government has raided restaurants in its wildlife conservation
drive. Most restaurants found serving wildlife meat, said WildAid head Suwanna Gauntlett,
were Chinese. She added that the mobile unit would continue its raids in Phnom Penh
and along Route 4.
"It seems most traders in wildlife meat had shifted their focus to Sihanoukville
after a campaign [against them] in Phnom Penh," said a police official.
In another case, three men from a village on the outskirts of Bokor National Park
were arrested after an investigation determined they had shot an elephant cow. The
residents of Phun Svay village ate the animal after the village chief and two deputies
hunted the animal November 14 using illegal firearms. The animal's inedible remains
were hidden away.
The park's director heard of the killing the following day, but handed over the investigation
to WildAid's investigative unit since it took place outside his jurisdiction.
"[The arrests] should send a positive message across, since it is the first
time that the killers have been apprehended and sent behind bars," said Gauntlett.
The men will be tried for possession of illegal firearms and could also be fined
three times the value of the elephant under existing wildlife law.
Cambodia's wildlife faces numerous threats from dealers in wildlife products as well
as restaurants. A recent report from the Cat Action Treasury (CAT) stated that 20
tigers, 26 elephants, 47 bears, 71 sambar (an antelope), three leopards and many
other mammals had been killed in three regional tiger conservation units of Koh Kong/Pursat,
Preah Vihear and Mondolkiri during the 18 months up to October 2001.
The report is based on evidence collected by CAT's gamekeepers as part of its conservation
efforts. CAT said it represents just the tip of the iceberg, as killings in the other
provinces go unreported for lack of adequate surveillance.
"If the trend continues, much of Cambodia's wildlife will completely disappear
in a few years," said Hunter Weiler of CAT.
Each large mammal was crucial to the food chain, he added, with tigers at the top.