In the two years from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022, park rangers removed a total of 96,357 traps and snares from the Kingdom’s protected areas and also seized 1,416 firearms, according to Ministry of Environment secretary of state Neth Pheaktra.

Pheaktra revealed the figures at a March 2 press conference, where he announced the second phase of the ministry’s zero-snaring campaign.

He said the confiscated snares and firearms were the result of the rangers’ – and their partner organisations’ – efforts to protect nearly 7.3 million hectares of protected land, including 73 protected areas and three biodiversity corridors.

“The majority of the traps were discovered in the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong and Pursat and in the northeastern provinces of Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng. The removal of these snares made a major contribution to saving the wildlife of the Kingdom’s forests,” he said.

“Although we cannot remove all the traps, it is important that we try. Many trapped or injured animals have been released back into the wild, or transported to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre for treatment,” he added.

The ministry, in collaboration with several partner organisations, launched the second phase of the zero-snaring campaign on March 3 to coincide with World Wildlife Day.

“Protecting wildlife not only balances the environment, but also attracts tourism. Today, Cambodia has shifted from logging for money to preserving its forests to generate incomes from the sale of carbon credits and eco-tourism,” he added.

“There is more to it than just the trees. The zero-snare campaign will improve the safety of all forest dwelling animals and improve the biodiversity of protected areas. In addition, when animals are free to follow their migratory habits, they are more likely to successfully reproduce, increasing the population” he continued.

He also warned of the dangers of bush meat, saying there are a number of possible illnesses that could be transferred to humans through consumption.

Jackson Frechette, Conservation International (CI) programme director for the Greater Mekong Subregion, said many animals were trapped, including elephants, bears, and wild boars. The zero-snare campaign would help address the issue.

“Traps kill a lot of wildlife in the forest, and all animals have a part to play in such a delicate ecosystem. CI works closely with the environment ministry to deal with traps. We also cooperate with local authorities,” he added.

John Willis, country director of Wildlife Alliance, expressed the organisation’s support for the second phase of the campaign, especially in the Kingdom’s biodiversity corridors. He said traps and snares are the enemy of wildlife and kill indiscriminately, destroying biodiversity and harming the ecosystem.

He said that in the Cardamom Mountains, there are many eco-tourism attractions, and illegal hunting and trapping has a severely negative effect on them.

“The zero-snare campaign will help boost the economy and improve the effectiveness of law enforcement,” he said.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) country director Seng Teak recalled that the first zero-snare campaign was carried out in Kratie, Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom provinces. At several target locations, up to 80 per cent of the population received messages from the campaign.

“Around 1.5 million people commented or responded to social media posts from the campaign, and journalists published 610 articles related to it.

“Overall, we assess that more than three million people learned about the trapping crisis and the other challenges facing the Kingdom’s wildlife,” he said.

Teak pointed out that the educational campaign appeared to be working.

“In 2021, before the campaign was run, 61,160 traps and snares were discovered. Following the campaign, in 2022, a total of 35,193 were found. This 40 per cent decrease was amplified by firearms seizures, which fell from 1,200 to just 116,” he added.