An endangered Pileated gibbon at Phnom Tmau Zoo. Under the new forestry law it will be illegal to possess endangered animals.
An endangered two-month old Pileated gibbon that was spotted recently by the Post
being patted by waitresses in a city restaurant may become a rarer sight once new
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) regulations are implemented
in early August.
Sun Hean, who is assistant to Minister Chan Sarun, said the current law contains
a loophole as it does not state clearly that people cannot possess protected animals.
He explained that decree 35, which the new regulation will supersede, forbids people
only from hunting, transporting, selling or buying protected species.
"Currently when the mobile [wildlife] team goes on the ground they can't do
anything - even if people have just bought protected animals, they say they found
them and there is nothing we can do," said Hean.
The MAFF regulations will close that loophole and work in conjunction with a revised
prakas 359, which contains an updated list of protected species.
Among these are such animals as gibbons, Siamese crocodiles, Malaysian sun bears,
fishing cats, Sarus cranes and white winged ducks. Anyone who currently owns one
of the listed species will need to register it with the Department of Forestry and
Wildlife (DFW), which will then issue a certificate of ownership.
After the registration phase, which comes with a three month grace period, a mobile
unit consisting of forestry officials, military police and staff from the environmental
NGO WildAid will begin inspections.
"If animals have chains and no food we will not give [the owners] a certificate
and they will be violating the law: the animals will be confiscated," said Hean.
Dr Jenny Daltry, senior conservation biologist with international NGO Fauna and Flora
International (FFI), welcomed the prospect of tighter regulations.
"It is long overdue," she said. "In the short time I've been in Cambodia
I've seen numerous instances of rare and endangered species being kept in wholly
The MAFF regulations follow the National Assembly's approval in late July of Chapter
10 of the new Forestry Law. The chapter, entitled 'Wildlife Conservation', classifies
all wildlife in Cambodia as being the property of the state.
It also divides the two previous categories of species into three groups: rare, endangered
and common. That means the penalties for killing Siamese crocodiles, for example,
will no longer be the same as those for harming common birds.
These stricter classifications will be helped by tough jail terms. Any person found
hunting, killing, trading or exporting an endangered species could face up to ten
years in jail, according to Article 97 of the penalty chapter. Similar abuses of
rare species carry a sentence of between one and five years and/or a fine of between
10-100 million riel.
Under the recently approved Forestry Law, which is yet to become law, it will be
illegal to possess endangered or rare species, other than those kept for captive
breeding, scientific research or animal exchange for international cooperation.
Dr Daltry said the new laws would deter potential offenders and show Cambodia was
serious about protecting its rare wildlife, something that hasn't always happened
in the past.
"I recently saw three live fishing cat kittens on a pool table in the Cardamoms,"
she said. "The animals were dead within a week because they didn't get the right
As part of its public information program, said Sun Hean, the government would embark
on a "big publication campaign" and inform districts, restaurants and newspapers
of the new regulations.
However several environ-mental NGOs questioned the government's capacity to enforce
the changes, given the generally weak implementation of laws.
Seng Teak, program coordinator at the WorldWide Fund for Nature, said laws sometimes
existed "only on paper". He said it was vital to disseminate the new regulations
and penalties via a country-wide monitoring system.
"Right now if people hunt elephants or tigers they are just called in for education
for between 30 minutes and two hours," Teak said. "We actually need very
strong penalties for these people."
Despite the government's crackdown, four endangered Irra-waddy dolphins that were
due to be released from the Koh Kong International Resort Casino on July 4 are still
in confinement and will remain there.
A letter from the Council of Ministers dated July 9 overruled MAFF's decision to
release the mammals, stating that the casino had Hun Sen's approval to keep the dolphins.
However it has been banned from capturing any more.