Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Animal trade down?

Animal trade down?

Lorises that were seized by the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team in Cambodia
Gibbons that were seized by the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team in Cambodia. The WRRT has been highlighting the illegal trade of animals internationally and domestically since 2001. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Animal trade down?

Conservation organisation Wildlife Alliance yesterday released its statistics for seizures of illegal animals for the first nine months of this year – figures that show that the illicit wildlife trade is still a significant problem in Cambodia, despite improvements in the last 12 years.

According to the statistics, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team – a WA project staffed by military police and Forestry Administration officials – seized over 2,000 live animals and more than 2,300 dead ones through the end of September in actions that resulted in the arrest of 125 wildlife traders.

By comparison, between the years of 2001 – when the WRRT was initiated – and 2012, the team seized an average of 4,400 living animals each year.

Wildlife Alliance’s CEO, Suwanna Gauntlett, said that while seizures had levelled off in recent years, the underground nature of the market made it hard to measure its size.

And while once-frequently trafficked animals are also showing up less in recent seizures, Gauntlett said, it’s likely for the wrong reasons.

“In the beginning we [seized a lot of] the charismatic mammals, like elephants and tigers,” Gauntlett said. “As of six or seven years ago, those charismatic species are gone. And after the tigers and elephants come the bears.”

However, she continued, “in the last couple of years, the number [of bear seizures] has declined because, we think, the population is declining”.

One of the most commonly trafficked animals now is the pangolin, a scaly ant-eating mammal. According to Gauntlett, pangolin meat can fetch as much as $300 per kilogram, while a kilo of scales – used in traditional medicine – can fetch up to $3,000.

But, as Gauntlett said, “all animals, no exceptions” are at risk for opportunistic poaching, which typically uses snares to indiscriminately trap prey.

“They put [the snares] in the forest, 600 at a time, and we call it the ‘wall of the death’,” she said. “So when somebody says that these farmers are doing this for their own subsistence, and they’re catching a wild pig for their family, that’s basically not the reality.”

MOST VIEWED

  • CNRP activists arrested for ‘plotting insecurity’

    Three activists for the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court after they were arrested for their alleged involvement in an overseas-organised plot to mobilise demonstrations and cause insecurity. National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said the

  • ‘Support of CNRP return online will lead to arrest’

    Anyone posting messages supporting the return of Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on social media will be arrested, the Ministry of Interior announced on Tuesday. Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told The Post on Monday that authorities

  • Rainsy charged with ‘insulting the King’

    Ministries and state institutions have condemned Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), for allegedly insulting His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni. The condemnation came in the wake of Rainsy’s claim on Thursday during an interview with Radio

  • Negotiations to continue for next year’s minimum wage

    Negotiations for next year’s minimum wage will continue this week as the parties work to reach an agreement that will impact about 800,000 workers in the textile, garment and footwear industries, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said on Thursday. Representatives for workers have