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Restaurant raids uncover wildlife abuses

Restaurant raids uncover wildlife abuses

restaur.jpg
restaur.jpg

Stuffed wild animals adorn a restaurant counter in Kampong Speu.

A

series of swift raids on several restaurants in and around Sihanoukville resulted

in 200 kilograms of illegal wildlife meat being seized.

The raids were carried out December 9 and 10 along Route 4 by the wildlife unit attached

to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).

Carcasses of wild boar, binturong (a small tree-living bear), pangolin, civet cat,

monitor lizard and various water fowl and snakes were seized and later burned at

a ceremony organized by MAFF and WildAid, an NGO. The largest haul of wildlife meat

was made at Sihanoukville's Treasure Hunt and Samtov Meas restaurants, while live

animals were seized at Kampong Speu, Sre Klong and Pich Nil markets. The violators

received fines.

Sun Hean, deputy director of MAFF's Wildlife Protection Office, said penalties of

$200 each were levied on the Sihanoukville restaurants; those who failed to pay were

handed over to the local court. Some, he said, claimed they knew nothing of the new

laws.

It is the first time the government has raided restaurants in its wildlife conservation

drive. Most restaurants found serving wildlife meat, said WildAid head Suwanna Gauntlett,

were Chinese. She added that the mobile unit would continue its raids in Phnom Penh

and along Route 4.

"It seems most traders in wildlife meat had shifted their focus to Sihanoukville

after a campaign [against them] in Phnom Penh," said a police official.

In another case, three men from a village on the outskirts of Bokor National Park

were arrested after an investigation determined they had shot an elephant cow. The

residents of Phun Svay village ate the animal after the village chief and two deputies

hunted the animal November 14 using illegal firearms. The animal's inedible remains

were hidden away.

The park's director heard of the killing the following day, but handed over the investigation

to WildAid's investigative unit since it took place outside his jurisdiction.

"[The arrests] should send a positive message across, since it is the first

time that the killers have been apprehended and sent behind bars," said Gauntlett.

The men will be tried for possession of illegal firearms and could also be fined

three times the value of the elephant under existing wildlife law.

Cambodia's wildlife faces numerous threats from dealers in wildlife products as well

as restaurants. A recent report from the Cat Action Treasury (CAT) stated that 20

tigers, 26 elephants, 47 bears, 71 sambar (an antelope), three leopards and many

other mammals had been killed in three regional tiger conservation units of Koh Kong/Pursat,

Preah Vihear and Mondolkiri during the 18 months up to October 2001.

The report is based on evidence collected by CAT's gamekeepers as part of its conservation

efforts. CAT said it represents just the tip of the iceberg, as killings in the other

provinces go unreported for lack of adequate surveillance.

"If the trend continues, much of Cambodia's wildlife will completely disappear

in a few years," said Hunter Weiler of CAT.

Each large mammal was crucial to the food chain, he added, with tigers at the top.

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