Four people were detained in Kampong Chhnang province on Friday afternoon and fined 10 million riel (about $2500) after they were caught illegally transporting four pythons and more than 50 turtles by bus.
Two bus drivers and their two assistants were stopped while allegedly carrying 63 kilograms’ worth of wildlife from Banteay Meanchey province to Phnom Penh, according to Lem Hak, director of the penal office at the Kampong Chhnang provincial military police.
“They were arrested on Friday afternoon at Porpel village in Kampong Tralach district as they covertly hid the pythons and turtles in the goods loaded in the two buses,” Lem Hak said.
He said the 57 turtles weighed in at 43 kilograms, while the four pythons weighed 20 kilograms.
Drivers Suy Kemsean, 34, and Di Tea, 34, and assistants Pheng Sinat, 20, and Heang Samphors, 20, were released when they agreed to pay the hefty fine – three times the market value of the captured wildlife.
Hong Socheat, a Kampong Tralach Forestry Administration officer, said the quartet would not be sentenced to prison as the wild animals were not classified as endangered species.
He said that the snakes and turtles would be released into the forest, but the buses would remain impounded until the fine was paid.
Wildlife Alliance founder and CEO Suwanna Gauntlett praised the military police effort, saying there was “no other way” to curb rising demand in the illegal wildlife trade.
“It’s not stopping. We have seized 60,000 animals in Cambodia since 2001, and it’s only getting worse,” she said.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley