The Sorng Rukhavorn Forest Community Monks Committee has imposed a ban on hunting jewel beetles within the community protected area.

Venerable Tho Thoross, the committee’s head, said on August 14 that residents near the protected forest were foraging for these beetles.

“It was mostly people from Kok Phluk I and Chhouk Meas I villages who were hunting these beetles. They were likely driven by the appeal of selling their wings, which are used in making jewellery and clothing,” he added.

The committee recently confiscated two large bags filled with the beetles and released them back into their natural habitat.

Thoross warned that the diminishing numbers of the beetles could disrupt the delicate ecological balance of the forest.

“Nature thrives on interdependence. Losing even a small part can disturb its stability,” he said.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra echoed the sentiment.

“Any loss of biodiversity, regardless of scale, can drastically affect both ecosystems and human lives,” he said.

He cited the significant impact that would result from the disappearance of bees, highlighting that without them, forests would be barren, leading to trees that bloom but never fruit, and eventually destroying the forest’s very essence.

“Bees collect the nectar from flowers without causing any harm,” he explained.

“In the process, they transfer pollen from one flower to another, enabling trees to bear fruit. Birds then consume these fruits, dispersing seeds and promoting the growth of diverse tree species. Without bees, we’d see flowers but no fruit,” he added.

Dy Rado, deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, also commented on the wildlife trade. He urged officials – and local communities – to adhere to the Kingdom’s laws and regulations, especially when it came to actions that could lead to a significant loss of wildlife.

“We have always insisted that our law enforcement officials, particularly park rangers, work in tandem with the community. The goal is to protect not just the jewel beetles, but all creatures residing in the community forest, as well as the very forest itself,” he said.

Although the jewel beetle is not a toxic species, its distant relatives the blister beetle is dangerously toxic to humans..

On August 11, four people in Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces met with fatal consequences after consuming blister beetles.

The Ministry of Health’s communicable disease control (CDC) department highlighted the presence of a toxin called cantharidin in the species.

Consuming them can lead to severe symptoms, including blisters around the mouth, and kidney failure. This can result in vomiting blood, and in severe cases, death.

The CDC urged the public to refrain from eating unfamiliar insects and plants.