Over three million people have been made aware of the zero-snaring campaign through more than 300 news articles and social media posts spread out since its launch, according to a senior Ministry of Environment official.

The zero-snaring campaign, initiated and led by the ministry, officially kicked off in March in Phnom Penh and was planned to last six months in six target provinces. The latest place the campaign has reached was Ratanakkiri, on September 4, which is the sixth after Kampong Thom, Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri and Preah Vihear.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said its campaign has received wide support from conservation and development partners.

The campaign’s aim is eradicating all types of snares from Cambodia’s protected areas to create a safe haven for wildlife that will keep biodiversity strong to support ecosystem sustainability in the Kingdom.

“Wildlife plays a crucial role in sustaining the ecological system. The loss of wildlife and biodiversity causes imbalances in the ecosystem. Wildlife is also a significant contributor to the development of ecotourism, which supports local economic development, creating jobs and income opportunities for the local communities,” he said.

Pheaktra said the first six legs of the campaign will wrap up at an event in Phnom Penh in October. Then it will start up again and continue in the provinces in the northern part of the Cardamom Mountains and nearby, such as Kampong Speu, Koh Kong, Pursat, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang as well as coastal Preah Sihanouk.

“We will collect input from our campaigns conducted over the last six months to see what negatives and positives it had,” he said.

He added that for illegal hunters, the campaign will continue to steadily pour down on them and darken their days like a “drizzling rain”.

Pheaktra said authorities in the six provinces where the campaign has been launched have shown their strong support, reflecting the will of sub-national authorities to protect natural resources.

“For the northwestern part of the country, the six provinces will continue to protect natural resources and wildlife based on a new action plan and objectives. Although we call it a new action plan and new objective, our main goal has remained unchanged and that is to provide safety to wildlife by reducing snaring in all natural protected areas,” he said.

The spokesman said the ministry and partner NGOs will carry on with additional steps after this opening public outreach period, such as strengthening law enforcement, educating communities and making wildlife crime perpetrators guilty of less serious offences sign letters promising to cease and desist, among other ideas.

Pheaktra explained that Ratanakkiri is rich in natural resources and wildlife, but in the last few decades the illegal hunting, snaring and poisoning of wild animals have been identified as key threats that have led to a notable decline in their population and even placing some endangered species at the edge of extinction.

He continued that consumption of bush meat and other animal parts for sustenance or traditional medicines is a motivating factor for snaring and wildlife trade.

Ratanakkiri provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun said at the campaign launch event that local authorities fully support the goals of the zero-snaring campaign. He said they will promote this campaign in all public forums and at other regular meetings.

“What we will do is continue to work together to make our people change their behaviours by stopping wildlife trade and consumption. We have strict legal measures we can take based on the provisions available in the existing laws against illegal hunting and trading,” Sam Oeun said.

The governor said his province will put banners on display at all markets in urban areas and order restaurants to stop providing dishes with bush meat to customers, or face legal consequences otherwise.

“As we know, when restaurants stop buying bush meat to serve to their customers, then hunters will stop hunting accordingly because there will be no buyers,” he said.

Seng Teak, country director of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Cambodia), said the Kingdom is the lead country in the Southeast Asia on this issue as it has taken concrete actions to tackle the snaring crisis, which is a major driver of wildlife decline and extinction today.

“Collective actions are needed to address this crisis, coupled with implementing environmental education and public awareness programmes, strengthening law enforcement efforts, increasing the penalties for wildlife criminals and developing more alternative livelihoods initiatives for local communities,” he said.

According to Teak, over 2,500 people at minimum have directly ceased their hunting and snaring activities as a result of the last five zero-snaring campaign, which has been promoted through tuk-tuk advertisements and other means for the past 30 days along with the participation of local radio stations and other media.

“Users of social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn have widely shared stories and information about these campaigns. So, in general, we have noted more than 300 news articles about the campaign which have been published by local and international media,” Teak said.

He noted that more than three million people have been reached with the message so far.

The zero-snaring campaign event in Ratanakkiri on September 4 was organised in parallel with International Vulture Awareness Day.

An official press statement took note of the vulture population in the Kingdom. The latest survey recorded 134 total vultures of three species – 19 red-headed, 44 slender-billed and 71 white-rumped.

The statement said Ratanakkiri is one of the vulture’s home provinces in Cambodia; however, conservation groups have expressed concerns about the current level of hunting, snaring and poisoning that persist.

They said the past years of snaring and hunting have already led to a significant decrease in the vulture populations sighted in Ratanakkiri and the number will continue to decline in the near future if these illegal activities continue.