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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Wildlife busts down across region: ASEAN watchdog

Wildlife busts down across region: ASEAN watchdog

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Experts says animal seizures have decreased in Cambodia since 2005 but that illegal wildlife trade remains active.

Photo by:

HENG CHIVOAN 

An illegal hunter of wildlife displays a turtle - which will be cooked and eaten - in Battambang province last week.

IN the first three months of 2009, some 5,410 animal seizures and 38 arrests were made by wildlife law enforcement agencies across Southeast Asia - a sharp decline compared with last year, according to recently released statistics from ASEAN's Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN).

With 24,175 animal rescues in the region in the second half of 2008, the number of wildlife enforcement actions in Southeast Asia lags far behind last year's pace.

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

But Nick Marx, a Wildlife Alliance adviser to the Forestry Administration's Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT), says there could be multiple reasons for the apparent drop in Cambodia's wildlife trade, saying the WRRT and increased fines could have deterred many people from entering into the wildlife trade, or that traders had gotten one step ahead of enforcement and were not being caught.

Finally, he said, "There could just be less wildlife around."

ASEAN-WEN, which claims to be the largest wildlife law enforcement network in the world, highlighted one major animal trafficking bust in Cambodia when the WRRT rescued 150 live animals from traders in Pursat province on March 30 after a high-speed car chase.

"That might be the biggest rescue, but there have been many other smaller ones," said Marx.

Meng Sinoeurn, a Military Police officer who participated in the March bust in Pursat, said that partnerships between Cambodia and its neighbours had improved Cambodia's ability to uncover international trafficking networks.

"Good cooperation with neighbouring countries can preserve the wildlife in Cambodia because we can respond more quickly to protect the animals," he said.

Before Cambodia worked with other countries to combat the  illegal wildlife trade, it had never successfully raided traders at the borders, Meng Sinoeurn said.

"But this year, due to international cooperation, we have discovered cases of illegal wildlife trading before they reach the border," he said.

The director of Forestry Administration, Ty Sokhun, said Cambodia has been sharing information about illegal wildlife trading with other countries for the last five years but emphasised that actual arrests are made by Cambodian authorities.

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