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Wildlife busts in Kingdom’s north

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Five men are held by authorities near Preah Vihear province for forestry crimes on Saturday. Photo supplied

Wildlife busts in Kingdom’s north

The Mondulkiri provincial Environment Department launched a campaign among the Banong, Krueng and Tumpuon ethnic communities to create awareness about the importance of wildlife to the ecology and tourism sector. The communities live close to wildlife sanctuaries.

The move comes after authorities discovered and destroyed 4,000 traps that were laid to catch animals and jailed five hunters who possessed home-made weapons in the first seven months of this year.

Keo Sopheak, the department’s director, told The Post yesterday that the campaign started on August 23 and will continue every weekend starting from the Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary. It will then move to Phnom Prich, Lumphat, Keo Seima and finally be conducted in public places throughout Mondulkiri province.

He said the campaign focused on wildlife and biodiversity, and villagers were educated via video clips produced by a special task force from the Environment Department.

“We are really proud that our people supported the campaign and expressed their opinions. They even asked our officials for a strategic plan to protect, preserve and develop our wildlife sanctuary,” said Sopheak.

Un Chanthy, the deputy director of the Information Office at Mondulkiri province, said 70 villagers from the Sre Hoy village, in Sre Hoy commune, Koh Nhek district, participated in the project.

The campaign, he said, covered a wide range of topics from illegal wildlife trading to how different agencies such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society and government officials jointly worked to tackle wildlife crime.

“After listening to the instructions and watching the video clips, villagers assured that they will spread the information to their families to stop hunting, laying traps and eating wildlife,” Chanthy said.

The authorities are on their heels to protect endangered wildlife in the area as poachers continued to hunt animals in the restricted area and there is no sign of the crime abating.

Separately on Saturday, five villagers in Preah Vihear province were put in pre-trial detention on charges of forestry crimes committed at the protected Phnom Thnout Wildlife Sanctuary in Sangkum Thmey district.

Preah Vihear provincial court deputy prosecutor Phy Sithorng said the five were charged on three counts, including “using chainsaws to illegally fell trees, hauling forestry products without a permit and illegal possession of weapons”.

“Hauling forestry products only results in a fine, but the other two crimes with aggravating circumstances carry prison sentences,” she said.

According to the 2002 Forestry Law, the charge of hunting endangered species alone carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 100 million riels ($2,500).

Phnom Thnout wildlife sanctuary director Meas Nhem said the men, who besides logging had also hunted wild animals, were arrested at the sanctuary in Sdav commune while they were hauling timber out of the forest.

During the raid, the authorities seized two cubic meters of timber, chainsaws, two home-made guns, some illegal electric fishing devices and animal traps.

“We’re investigating to flush out their accomplices,” he said.

Preah Vihear provincial environment department director Song Chansocheat said the case is in the court’s hands.

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