RATANAKKIRI provincial authorities have seized 300 kilograms of protected wildlife after searching a car that was abondoned near the Vietnamese border, officials said yesterday.
Nov Dara, deputy police chief of the provincial bureau for combating economic crime, said that police and forestry officials intercepted the car in O’Yadav district on Monday night, but that the driver and any accomplices had bailed out of the vehicle and escaped.
“We followed them in a car and forced them to stop their car, but we were unlucky because we could not arrest the businessmen.
“They escaped but left the car and wild animals at the place,” he said.
He said it was likely that the car was bound for Vietnam, where the live animals would be offered up for sale.
“I don’t know exactly how many people escaped because it was nighttime, but we confiscated all the wild animals and their car,” he said.
Nov Dara said that the hoard of confiscated wildlife included turtles, snakes, civets and lizards with a combined weight of 354 kilograms.
Officials had weighed, not counted the animals, he said, because there were the creatures were so numerous, and because they were “afraid it would be dangerous because there were cobras” in amongst the haul.
He said police did not know the names of any suspects in the incident, but that investigations were under way to find the owner of the car.
Vong Sok Serey, director of the provincial Forestry Department, said the confiscated animals had been kept at the police station overnight, but that officials intended to release them in the north of the province.
“We are going to release those wild animals on Tuesday evening ... in the natural forest and safe place in Veun Sai district,” he said.
Nov Dara said provincial officials had prosecuted many people caught smuggling wild animals over the last year, but that Monday’s had been the first substantial bust of 2010.