Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team raided a shop in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district on Thursday, finding specimens of 14 rare and endangered species that the shop was embalming in rice wine, which it touted as a medicinal elixir.
“The 14 kinds of wild animals were stuffed into jars full of wine and traditional medicine,” said one Wildlife Alliance officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Three slow lorises and a king cobra were forced alive into the medicine jars full of alcohol and died a slow, painful death by asphyxiation.”
In addition to the cobra and lorises, jars of wine were found containing sun bear, hoe deer and serow – a type of wild cattle – among other species. The wine itself was being sold for $80 per 250 millilitres, the officer said.
The shop’s owner, he added, had said he was unaware it was illegal to sell the animals and the products made from them, but was fined $2,500 nonetheless.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the body that assesses the level of threat to animal species, hog deer are endangered, having experienced a “past reduction [in population] of 50 per cent or greater in three generations”. The sun bear, king cobra and the slow loris are all vulnerable – one level removed from endangered – and populations for all three species are trending downward.
While some of the animals discovered in last week’s raid had been killed and dismembered before being placed in the jars, Wildlife Alliance said, others had been put in alive.
According to the group’s website, the four-metre cobra had its “lips stiched [sic] with nylon thread to keep it from biting and [was] forced into the jar”.
“And you call this medicine?” the post continues. “The demand for rare wildlife in traditional medicine is driving many species to the brink of extinction.”