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Wildlife head for extinction

Wildlife head for extinction

wildlife.jpg
wildlife.jpg

A cargo of animals about to be loaded for sale abroad

CAMBODIA'S wildlife, including endangered species, is without legal protection because

legislation dealing with the trade has been held up in the Council of Ministers for

the past two years.

In the meantime, wildlife traders and hunters have been pillaging the nation's animal

life.

According to airport sources, up to six tonnes of live wildlife, including snakes

and turtles, are flown to China each each week.

In addition, more than 70 Phnom Penh restaurants offer wildlife dishes on their menus

according to the Cultural and Environment Preservation Association.

They also said wildlife such as tigers are still being caught and used for traditional

medicines.

Head of wildlife research for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Rath Bunthoeun, said that his staff arrest poachers and sieze their catch despite

not having the legal backing to do so.

He said it was little more than a gesture, but they could do nothing else.

"If we arrest them what result do we get back? We don't have the law to punish

or fine them," he said.

Given that they are working in such difficult circumstances, Bunthoeun said, even

small successes are celebrated.

He said that his wildlife protection officers get a special satisfaction when other

departments like Customs assist by siezing wildlife that people are trying to smuggle

out of the country.

There has been a law drafted to address the problem, but it has not been looked at

since 1997.

Bunthoeun said that the law would allow for up to five years imprisonment for poachers

and traders as well as hefty fines.

However Van Piseth, the director of the Culture and Environment Preservation Association

said that he was worried that by the time the law became enacted there would not

be much wildlife left to protect.

He estimated that within five years much of Cambodia's wildlife would have been hunted

to unsustainable levels.

He said if this happened, then Cambodia would lose not only an important part of

its natural herritage but also a source of income from ecotourism.

He said it was an example of how Cambodia was not utilizing what it had to its own

advantage.

"We always say that we are poor, but our natural resources are rich. We just

don't process our resources," he said.

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