CAMBODIAN authorities made five major seizures of protected wildlife in the third quarter of this year, according to newly released data from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network.
ASEAN recorded just two major arrests by Cambodian law enforcement for the first six months of 2009, but three large-scale seizures came in August, followed by two more in September.
Following the August 18 seizure in Battambang province of two Asiatic black bears, which are recuperating under the care of the local branch of Wildlife Alliance, Cambodian authorities confiscated 163 kilograms of live Bengal monitors in a bust in Kampong Cham province on August 26.
Just two days later, a veritable menagerie of rare creatures was seized in Phnom Penh, including 15 monocled cobras, 67 elongated tortoises and 15 giant Asian pond turtles. September saw busts in Kandal and Svay Rieng provinces that included 15 live Sunda pangolins, three live water monitors and 25 dead purple swamphens.
Chheang Dany, deputy director of the wildlife protection office at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said it was difficult to quantify the value of the confiscated wildlife, as demand for particular species is hard to measure. Difficult economic circumstances and a lack of knowledge about endangered species push many Cambodians into the illegal wildlife trade, he added.
“It’s difficult now because Cambodia wants to stabilise the population of wildlife before we allow some limited or legal, restricted harvesting,” he said.