NGO Wildlife Alliance, in cooperation with Forestry Administration officials and local authorities, on Friday rescued 526 wild animals from a store in Kampong Thom province.

The shop, located in Stung Sen town’s Srayov commune, intended to sell the animals against Cambodian law.

The rescued animals have been taken to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Takeo province, where they will receive veterinary care and be nursed back to health.

Stoung district’s Forestry Administration official Pich Ieng told The Post on Sunday that 55 monkeys, three polecats, two snakes, and 466 whistling ducks were rescued.

“The animals were kept separately in small cages. They were pale, while wings and tails had been removed so they could not escape.

“Fortunately, the animals are now safe in the hands of the officers of Wildlife Alliance at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Takeo province,” Ieng said.

The owner of the shop was identified as Cheng Then, 34, who fled before the authorities arrived. The Forestry Administration has issued an order requiring Then to pay a fine within a week or face court action.

Fifty-five monkeys were rescued from the Kampong Thom store, as were three polecats, two snakes, and 466 whistling ducks. Photo supplied

Nhem Mongkul, the vice-head of the Wildlife Alliance’s Mobile Intervention Team, told The Post that, according to law, Then does not need to appear before the court if he pays a fine and agrees to stop trafficking wildlife.

“Buying and selling wild animals illegally is a crime and offenders face one to five years in prison if found guilty. They must pay fines based on the evidence collected and the market price of the specimens.

“In this case, if Then pays the fine set by the Forestry Administration technical committee, he may not be prosecuted,” Mongkul said.

He said that on Friday evening Then said he intended to appear before the Forestry Administration to settle the case, but that he could not do so straight away because he had to take his sick child to a hospital in Siem Reap province. According to Mongkul, Then has asked for more time to pay the fine.

Forest, Wildlife and Natural Resource Protection Organisation director Touch Nora told The Post that no perpetrator has ever voluntarily appeared before the authorities to pay the fine to settle a case unless they were arrested at the scene of the crime.

“I was really surprised when I heard that the owner of the shop told the authorities that he intended to pay the fine as stipulated in the law. We will continue following this case,” Nora said.