A senior Ministry of Environmental official has called on restaurant owners in provinces with natural protected areas to cooperate with authorities to end the trade in wild meat to preserve biodiversity and the wild animal population of Cambodia.

Ministry secretary of state Neth Pheaktra said in a June 17 press conference in Kratie province that as head of the zero-snaring campaign, he was proud to see the participation of many vendors – especially restaurant owners – who had volunteered to declare that their restaurants would not sell bush meat. The campaign was a successful one, and had received the highest encouragement from the ministry.

“I would like to thank all those who declared that they would not sell wild animal meat. They have made a direct contribution to preventing wildlife trafficking and poaching. If every member of the public supports this campaign, we will be successful,” he said.

He also asked people who set traps to think about the fact that while they may catch one wild animal and eat its meat for a day or two, their action will have contributed to the loss of part of the Kingdom’s biodiversity. If they instead preserve the population of wild animals in their communities, they will bring long-term benefits to their families through biodiversity – a resource that can be inexhaustible.

“This is a task that we would like to ask every single member of the public to join us in. We now have 10 restaurant owners across the country who have signed this pledge, especially in those provinces which have protected areas. I ask that everyone involved continue to be active in promoting this campaign,” he added.

Lom Serey Kot, owner of the Phnom Tbaeng Restaurant in Preah Vihear province, expressed his pleasure at joining the ministry’s campaign.

“I have found the campaign very helpful in spreading knowledge about the benefits of biodiversity and the preservation of wild animals to the local people. Ending trapping will be extremely helpful in conserving the Kingdom’s wonderful biodiversity,” he said.

He added that if people continued to trap and hunt wild animals, Cambodia will continue to lose biodiversity and its wide variety of wild animals – both important parts of the tourism industry – which is likely to affect the income earning potential of the communities who live in the protected areas.

“As the owner of a restaurant, I will promote the zero-snaring campaign. I am committed to ending the sale of wild meat trade at my restaurant and will not purchase it from local vendors, even if there are threats or bribes. I will not trade in wild meat,” he added.

Serey Kot hoped that the environment ministry and the Ministry of Tourism will continue to increase their organisation of eco-tourism in regions with abundant natural resources. This should increase the incomes of local communities, in response to the cessation of trapping, he said.

Thach Metrey, a representative of the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre, said that ending the trade in wild meat should begin with consumers. They need to understand that bush meat does not have medicinal qualities and is not especially delicious.

“We do not know what they [wild animals] eat. We do not know what viruses they may be carrying in their bodies,” he said.

“Domestic animals are well cared for, vaccinated, and protected on farms. If they get ill, veterinarians provide treatment. Wild animals live in a much less safe environment than those that are farmed for human consumption. This means they may suffer from unknown viruses, or other diseases that may harm us. It is not safe to eat wild meat and people need to understand this,” he added.

The environment ministry and international partners jointly announced the March 3 launch of the zero-snaring campaign in Cambodia’s protected areas, and pledged to take any measures necessary to end the snaring crisis and illegal animal trade in the Kingdom. The campaign will run for six months and targets the provinces of Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Kampong Thom and Ratanakkiri.