The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on Tuesday requested increased publicity of illegal wildlife trafficking, although it said the number of offences had declined since the laws were strengthened and more rigorously enforced.

WCS counter wildlife trafficking technical advisor Sarah Brook was responding to a question from The Post during a workshop on The Role of the Media in Responding to Wildlife Trafficking.

“We don’t have data or statistics on wildlife trafficking in Cambodia but, in my observation, wildlife trafficking is on the decline because the authorities have strengthened and enforced the laws. We do, however, observe that there is still hunting in preservation areas,” she said.

Until 2012, there had not been any transnational trafficking of elephant ivory or rhinoceros horns, Brook said, but over the last four or five years, trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products in containers through Cambodia had increased as criminals began to view the Kingdom as a target country.

Brook said she had observed wildlife trafficking both along the border and also crossing into other countries. Wildlife trafficking took different forms, she said, because the criminal dealers are highly skilled and well organised.

“The form of wildlife trafficking depends on the products and the kinds of wild animals. Sometimes [the products] are transported in containers hidden under timber and disguised as other goods, food or clothing. The crime takes different forms in different countries and also depends on the kind of animals involved,” Brook said.

WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha said he hoped journalists would increase their coverage of wildlife trafficking issues and thus expand the level of interest.

He said this would encourage a stronger response to wildlife offences and foster a greater appreciation among the public of the need to address wildlife trafficking as a serious crime.

The WCS, Serey Rotha added, had been working with the government to strengthen law enforcement and push the courts to take greater measures against offenders.

“Confiscating wildlife alone is not effective in stemming trafficking offences. The criminal dealers still manage to earn a substantial amount of money by conducting their illegal business.

“To more effectively stem the trafficking of wildlife, it’s necessary to find and punish wildlife dealers and impose proportionate fines. We need to ensure that the network of dealers is disrupted and destroyed,” he said.

According to the World Economic Forum, illegal wildlife trafficking is the fourth most lucrative global crime – after drugs, humans and arms – with a value of between $7 billion and $23 billion each year, Rotha said.

While he did not have accurate data on Cambodia, he said in the Asian and Pacific regions, income obtained from illegal wildlife trafficking amounted to some $2.5 billion per year.

Wildlife trafficking, Serey Rotha said, was one of the most serious threats to the world’s wildlife and affected the rule of law, community living standards and the transmission of diseases to humans.

Besides, he said, wildlife trafficking dealers buy land and property and traffic arms to launder their dirty money.

Club of Cambodian Journalists secretary-general Puy Kea said the media had played a crucial role in spreading awareness of social issues.

He said the Kingdom’s media had transformed themselves into a valuable resource that can influence politics and elicit a response from the government and the public.

“But currently, publicity of wildlife trafficking in Cambodia’s media is still limited and people don’t have great knowledge of serious issues like the destruction of our forests and wildlife trafficking,” Kea said.