At least 107 cameras deployed for tracking endangered wildlife in the northeast provinces of Cambodia were dismantled or destroyed by poachers, according to a provincial environment official on Thursday.
Mondulkiri Provincial Environment Department director Keo Sopheak told The Post that the dismantling of the cameras showed that poaching in the Sre Pok and Phnom Prich wildlife sanctuaries continued at an alarming rate.
Sopheak said that data his team collected from other cameras indicated that poachers stole and destroyed cameras in the two wildlife sanctuaries. They wore civilian clothing but were armed with AK-47 and M-16 rifles.
“We cannot identify the perpetrators as the data collected from the other cameras’ vantage points allow us to only make out their bodies.
“Nonetheless, the Environment Department has filed a complaint with the Mondulkiri provincial police and the provincial Military Police requesting that they investigate further and arrest those responsible,” he said.
Mondulkiri provincial police chief Lor Sokha told The Post that police are looking into the case to identify possible suspects, but so far police have not been able to identify them.
“Police are investigating quietly to prevent the suspects from knowing in advance of any action we plan to take. This is because we suspect we are dealing with a group that traffics as part of the illegal wild animal trade,” Sokha said.
Meanwhile, Sopheak estimated that the cost of the damaged cameras was about $30,000.
Sopheak also said that this year wild dogs and foxes had been found dead and diagnosed with diseases associated with domestic dogs as a result of hunters taking their hounds poaching.
“According to the camera images our team gathered, rare and endangered animals such as elephants, gaur, banteng, bears, tigers and others are living in Cambodia,” Sopheak said.
He appealed to people and relevant parties to jointly protect wildlife by stopping the hunting and eating of endangered animals, and urged locals not to accidentally damage the cameras, as they are being used to track, study and observe wildlife.