Despite the call for social distancing and to halt large gatherings in light of the deadly Covid-19 disease that has infected 47 people in Cambodia so far, more than 650 youth, women, and men gathered last week at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre to celebrate World Wildlife Day and International Women’s Day.
The trip was arranged by NGO Wildlife Alliance Cambodia (WAC) bringing together students from 10 public schools as well as teachers, staff, elders, and youth representatives from the Cambodian Red Cross, Cambodia Scouts, the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, district government offices, national police, and Military Police.
With 2,300ha of regenerated forest, Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre is home to more than 1,400 animals across over100 species which include Asian elephants, tigers, Pileated gibbons, otters, and many hoofstock, birds and reptiles, said WAC in a press release on Tuesday.
“Many of the animals have been rescued as victims from the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss.
“The centre is regularly used by the Kouprey Express team, Cambodia’s only mobile environmental education unit, in its effort to encourage children and adults alike to become frontline defenders of their natural resources,” it said.
Community members could study diverse species and the stories behind why they are now living in Phnom Tamao, particularly emphasising the hazards that snaring poses to wildlife, said the WAC.
Through this visit, women can play an important role in the protection of wildlife, reporting wildlife offenses, saying “no” to wildlife meat and products, and inspiring their families and communities to do the same, it said.
“This trip was timely and also a key step in protecting public health, as wildlife has been identified as the cause of the coronavirus and other deadly epidemics such as Sars and Ebola,” WAC said.
Kampong Chhnang province’s Samaki Meanchey District Hall Human Resources Office deputy director Say Buntheng told The Post on Thursday that the visit has made the participants learn about, be aware of and familiar with wildlife living at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.
He said previously they used to hear only the name of the wildlife and see them only in pictures and videos in some documentaries.
“This visit is to make them participate in preserving and protecting wildlife. They have seen the real situation of the dangers and threats to wildlife that live in the forest, and the risks they face from hunters and traders. The rescued ones are looked after very well in the centre.
“Some lost their legs and arms due to being snared. This resulted in the visitors feeling sorry for the disabled animals. Preserving wildlife is not only an individual responsibility but a collective one,” Buntheng said.
WAC said it has rescued over 76,000 live animals from illegal wildlife traders in Cambodia since 2001.
Each animal that is saved from the cooking pot, it said, has helped to reduce the danger of transferring infectious diseases to humans.