W hen King Norodom Sihanouk opened the Kirirom National Park in southern Cambodia
earlier this year, a corporate sponsor handed out T-shirts emblazoned with a
Visitors are as likely to run into an errant Khmer Rouge
guerrilla as a big striped cat in the pine-clad hills of the 35,000-hectare
park, but a few tigers still roam the area as three helpless soldiers found out
They tried to kill a solitary tiger, possibly thinking of the
money to be made from selling its skin, bones and teeth to wildlife traders in
Phnom Penh, but ended up nursing horrific maul injuries and cursing the one that
"They have tigers in the park... I spoke to one of the guards
who had seen the paw marks," said Barry Rogers of Britain's Enterprise Oil,
which paid for a park visitor's center.
But conservationists say the
tigers and panthers of Cambodia and Laos are threatened by hunters, traders and
"Tigers are still widespread and probably number around three
hundred to five hundred," said the World Conservation Union's local
representative David Ashwell.
He said that a hunter interviewed last year
in northeast Cambodia "had personally shot more than 30 tigers."
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recently announced a fund-raising campaign to save
Indochina's tigers, saying they were disappearing at a rate of one a
Tiger parts are prized in Asia for their purported magical and
Environment Minister Mok Mareth said Cambodia expected
to receive funds from the WWF next year and noted that hunting of rare species
was banned by law.
But a World Conservation Union report earlier this
year said the forestry department's Wildlife Protection Office (WPO) "is unable
to enforce the 1988 ban and hunting of all species is prevalent throughout the
It also noted the lack of an effective wildlife management
policy, with the usual problem of no funds and no clear cut division of
responsibilities between the Environment Ministry and the WPO, which is part of
the Agriculture Ministry.
Meanwhile, tiger parts are easy to come by in
Phnom Penh and a shopkeeper offered the Post two treated pelts for $500 and $600
each and said tiger skulls and bones sold for $100 a kilogram.
want one or two skins you can have them immediately, but if you want four or
five you'll have to wait," he said, while claiming that the two tigers on offer
had been killed by mines in an area just south of Kirirom.
were only $150 and he asked $120 for a blackened foot-long elephant penis, which
Cambodians soak in rice wine and use for traditional medicine.
here don't have many tiger skins on sale and normally it isn't very open because
every now and then people from the forestry department come and visit - we give
them money and they go away," claimed the trader.
"I know my business is
illegal... my business will no longer exist if the government puts strict
regulations to stop this kind of business in Cambodia."