The Ministry of Environment and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have co-organised a campaign to stop wildlife trafficking in Mondulkiri province with the purpose of protecting Cambodia's wildlife resources and contribute to the protection of public health, with experts saying that bushmeat consumption brings people into close contact with wildlife, which comes with a risk of infection by zoonotic illnesses as well as increased risk of food-bourne illnesses.

In order to prevent future outbreaks of animal-to-human transmitted viruses, such as the recent coronavirus pandemic which is is thought to have started in bats, and protect wildlife in Cambodia, the environment ministry – in cooperation with WWF in Mondulkiri province, the provincial Department of Environment, the provincial Forestry Administration and other key partners – launched a new campaign against bushmeat and wildlife trafficking on October 22.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that it was very important to make a joint effort to prevent illegal wildlife trade and increase wildlife safety. The campaign is an extension of the zero-snaring campaign, which has so far received good results and widespread support.

“We’ve focused this campaign on stopping the wildlife trade and we’ve convinced 32 restaurants that were dealing in wildlife to join us in making the announcement that they would no longer serve bushmeat,” he added.

He also said that in the past 18 months the authorities have seized 1,353 kg of bushmeat in Mondulkiri alone, not including other provinces.

Pheaktra has called on people who consume bushmeat and restaurant owners serving it to discontinue eating it and dealing in wildlife for the sake of the nation.

WWF country director Seng Teak said that the campaign was part of the zero-snaring campaign to save Cambodia’s wildlife.

“We hope that the restaurant owners will continue to encourage customers to stop bushmeat consumption and we expect that people will stop selling, buying and eating bushmeat,” he said.

The WWF said that more than 60 per cent of all new viruses transmitted from animals to humans have been similar to or more dangerous than Covid-19.

“When you consume a plate of bushmeat, it puts you at risk and can also put others at risk. Likewise, wildlife hunting, transportation, trafficking and processing are all factors in having direct contact with wildlife that can transmit viruses to humans,” WWF said.