To get a sense of the wildlife in the forests of northeastern Cambodia, visitors need only visit Stung Treng’s central market, where – despite repeated attempts by conservation groups to crack down – illegally poached meat is sold openly, as The Post witnessed earlier this week.
Fish and meat sat baking in the midday sun on Sunday, as vendors attempted to swat flies away from their wares.
While no efforts were made to conceal the sale of the meat, it was clear that vendors were aware the trade is illegal. One man asked not to be photographed as he weighed wild boar meat behind his stall on the eastern side of the market.
“Do not take photos. If a photo is taken and posted, there will be an arrest,” he said.Nevertheless, the salesman admitted to selling porcupine, red muntjac deer and sambar deer, among other wildlife.
One kilogram of sambar meat costs $8.75, the salesman said, while porcupine costs $7.50. “The meat is fresh and good. It can be fried and it is very delicious,” the salesman shouted to passing shoppers.
The salesman also showed off a porcupine’s head, claiming the teeth can be used to make a necklace that will stop babies from crying. Nearby, an elderly woman who declined to comment sat selling monitor lizard and red muntjac deer meat.
One of vendor said the sellers buy the meat from villagers and do not hunt it themselves.
One ethnic indigenous woman in a village outside of Stung Treng showed off her catch of the day. Pulling a net with two monitor lizards and a turtle from under a table, the woman confirmed that a broker purchases the wildlife from the villagers and sells it in town.
“The monitor lizard is trapped in the forest, and the injured or dead animals are sold at the market,” she explained. “But live monitor lizards are usually sold to Vietnam since they can fetch a better price.”
Hou Sam Ol, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he sees wildlife meat sold openly in at least three market stalls in Stung Treng.
“We have seen some crackdowns as well, but there aren’t tough measures,” he said. “They halt activities in the morning and people are selling it again in the evening . . . These animals, especially the muntjac, will be extinct if this doesn’t stop.”
According to Suwanna Gauntlett, the CEO of Wildlife Alliance in Cambodia, the organisation’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team is working to stop the sale of wild game meat in Stung Treng, but poachers are able to evade.
“Our unit is small and it travels around the country, but it can’t be everywhere as much as we’d like. [Poachers] know we’re there and they hide until we’ve left.”