The number of wildlife rangers in Cambodia’s eastern fringes is not nearly enough to cover the rich 6,000-square-kilometre forests, home to endangered mammals, plants and trees, a World Wildlife Fund and Forestry Administration review into environmental law enforcement in the area has found.
While at least 260 exotic and endangered animals had been saved from illegal poachers and wildlife traders in Mondulkiri and Phnom Prich protected forests and sanctuaries over the last six years, the illegal wildlife and logging trade was a colossal problem that required increased enforcement in the area, the report says.
The landscape is home to the world’s largest Banteng – or wild cattle – population and a vast array of mammals such as Asian elephants, and is a unique habitat critical in the recovery of the endangered Indochinese tiger.
According to the review, since 2010, rangers had confiscated more than 358-cubic-metres of luxury wood near the Vietnamese border worth around $100,000 and arrested a number of poachers and illegal traders capturing wildlife.
But Michelle Owen, WWF acting country director, said that probably presented only a fraction of illegal trade.
“Prosecution and penalties for offenders need to be strengthened to provide a real deterrent to the illegal wildlife and timber trades,” she said.
Manager of the Forestry Administration’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest, Keo Sopheak, said the current enforcement methods were not a long-term solution to the problem.
“Transforming poachers to protectors has been a major success contributing to protected area management over the past decade,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at [email protected]