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Hunt on for owners of illegal charcoal kilns in Battambang sanctuary

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Forest rangers destroyed nine illegal charcoal kilns at the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday. Supplied

Hunt on for owners of illegal charcoal kilns in Battambang sanctuary

The Battambang provincial Department of Environment is continuing to search for the owners of nine illegal charcoal kilns that were destroyed by forest rangers on Monday at the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary.

Department director Kort Boran said on Tuesday that seven rangers at the wildlife sanctuary found the nine kilns while on patrol and destroyed them before seizing two home-made rifles, two axes and 10 snares.

The owners of the kilns and seized items had already left the area before they arrived, he noted.

He said the owners are likely migrants looking for ways to make money, including cutting down trees in the protected area for charcoal and poaching protected animals.

“Once they were aware that rangers were on the way, the owners fled the scene. They leave the area after they fell all the trees that can be used to produce charcoal. After that, they set up camp in another area because they do not have any means to transport logged trees.

“They used axes to cut the trees and if we did not stop them on time, the trees and wildlife in the area would have been gone,” he said.

Boran said rangers remain on the lookout for the owners to bring them to justice.

He said the rangers patrolled the forest twice a week and faced many challenges, including safe transportation and sourcing enough food.

One ranger who helped destroy the kilns said by doing so, the owners cannot reuse them to produce more charcoal in future.

“We also dismantled the huts they built in the forest, but we do not know how many were staying there as we did not see them. The seized evidence was impounded at the wildlife sanctuary station,” the ranger said.

Authorities in Siem Reap province’s Prasat commune last week ordered owners of six charcoal kilns to shutter their operations following complaints from nearby residents that their health was being negatively impacted.

The kilns had been operating for 10 days and some 30 other kilns were also up for inspection and possible closure.

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