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Banteng poacher arrested, pangolins rescued in separate busts

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A pangolin rescued by Wildlife Alliance last week. Wildlife Alliance

Banteng poacher arrested, pangolins rescued in separate busts

In two operations last week, Wildlife Alliance officials rescued three pangolins in Kampong Speu province and on Thursday arrested a banteng poacher alongside Military Police in the Cardamom Mountains.

Following a two-week investigation into suspected wildlife traders, a team from the environmental NGO raided two suspects' homes in Kampong Speu province, in which one dead and three live pangolins were seized along with other wildlife.

“The wildlife traffickers, a husband and wife team, were apprehended, jailed, and fined for trading Critically Endangered pangolins,” the group wrote in their press release.

The live pangolins were released the same night they were captured.

“Every rescue and release of Sunda pangolins is vital for the species’ survival because they are the most trafficked mammals in the world and are on the brink of extinction,” they wrote.

Separately, on Thursday night, following a report of gunshots in a forest just outside the Southern Cardamom National Park in Kampong Speu, a WA team apprehended one poacher believed to be a Military Police officer transporting about 120 kilograms of banteng meat.

The provincial court prosecutor's spokesman, Ou Phat, confirmed that suspect and Svay Rieng resident Sou Sina, 38, is currently in pre-trial detention after being charged on Thursday with killing an endangered species. Under the 2002 Forestry Law, the crime is punishable by up to a year imprisonment and a fine of up to 10 million riel (about $2,500). According to Phat, there are seven others suspected in the poaching.

WA's Nick Marx said that rangers had informed him Sina is employed by the Military Police, but Phat would not address inquiries about his affiliation. He deflected questions to the environment department, who then referred questions back to the court.

According to Marx, the latest surveys from 2011, which put the population in Cambodia between 2,000-6,000, are out of date. “Banteng are very endangered, in danger of extinction,” he said.

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A team led by Wildlife Alliance with alleged banteng poacher Sou Sina in Kampong Speu on Thursday. Supplied

The 900-hectare forested area in Kampong Speu where the arrest was made receives no formal protection, but the small banteng population is guarded by the local community. According to one villager, 14 banteng are known to have been killed there by hunters since 2013.

“They actually get no help from the government, which is a bit disappointing,” Marx said.

“We’re not actually working there. There were attempts to contact the police by the community when the hunting happened but nothing happened.”

Marx and a veterinary team from WA had visited the forest just a few days before after villagers reported seeing banteng injured by snares.

“The issue of snares must be addressed more effectively,” Marx said. “Unless they have dead animals with them, courts won’t penalise hunters setting snares.”

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