Last month, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) received information from a reliable source that a major shipment of wildlife was being transported along National Road 5 in a white Lexus. The team left immediately and was able to intercept the vehicle along the highway on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. A search of the vehicle resulted in the rescue of 40 sugar gliders, 15 hedge hogs, 18 water dragons, 8 variable squirrels, 3 Burmese pythons, 5 Brongersma’s short-tailed pythons, 9 garden fence lizards, 5 Nicobar pigeons and 4 grey bellied squirrels. The rescued animals were immediately transported to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center where veterinarian staff can assess the condition of each animal. Those deemed suitable for release will be released into protected natural habitat as soon as possible.
The trader, a Vietnamese national, was apprehended and taken to a nearby Forestry Administration office for further questioning. During interrogation, the trader admitted to purchasing the wildlife from Chak Thu Chak market in central Bangkok before crossing the border in to Cambodia. He intended to continue on to Ho Chi Min city to resell the wildlife for a substantial profit. Most of the species rescued are not native to Cambodia and do not fall within the Forestry Law legislation, so the trader was only fined $4,500 USD. However, details about the trader have been passed on to contacts in Vietnam where it is hoped further investigation will result in ongoing operations and apprehensions. This significant bust, as well as the rescue of a critically endangered pangolin that was also heading to Vietnam on November 11th, suggest that Cambodia is increasingly being used as a wildlife transportation route to countries like China and Vietnam. To address this trend, the WRRT has been strengthening ties with border authorities and customs officials to reduce transnational trading. This increased cooperation with border and airport officials has already led to several successful arrests this year, and we hope to continue to build on these relationships in the upcoming year.
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On October 7, 2014, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) busted a prominent wildlife trader in Phnom Penh, and discovered a staggering amount of valuable wildlife products. After receiving intelligence through our informant network, the team worked tirelessly through the night to conduct the investigation and document evidence in order to execute one of the largest raids in recent years. Parts from extremely endangered and rare species were seized, and several live animals were rescued. Seizures included 19 clouded leopard skins, 3 leopard skins, 2 Asian golden cat skins, 6 clouded leopard paws, 10 otter skins, 2 fake tiger skins and other body parts. Many of the skins were fresh and still drying on wooden frames, indicating that the house was used as a regular transit warehouse and that freshly caught animals were being slaughtered and skinned there. The skin drying process was clean and professional, and the skins were of very good quality, all details indicating that the shipment was destined for high-end market buyers, most probably in China and Vietnam. In the back of the house, the team found 3 long-tailed macaques that were to be sold as lab animals for medical experimentation in Vietnam, and rare turtles including 1 Asiatic soft-shell turtle, 4 snail-eating turtles, and 1 box turtle destined to be used in soup. The villa housing these illicit goods belongs to the China Sichuan & Chongqing Chamber of Commerce in Tuol Sangke, Phnom Penh. Three Chinese nationals were found inside the house, and were interrogated by the team. The Forestry Administration officers and military police worked until midnight to finish the interrogations, document the identities of the offenders, and impose strict penalties according to the Forestry Law.
We are concerned that Cambodia is becoming a more frequent transit point for the illegal wildlife trade to China. This has been demonstrated through recent confiscations of African ivory and rhino horn seized in Cambodia at international airports and harbors on its way from Africa to Vietnam and China. In response to this crisis, the WRRT is focusing its efforts on transnational smuggling, and this successful operation is another example of the WRRT working aggressively to dismantle the illegal wildlife trade in the entire region. Help the team continue fight wildlife trafficking in the region by making a donation, or sharing our work to spread awareness!
On July 29th, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) conducted an operation that led to the successful discovery and rescue of 7 pygmy slow lorises in Kratie province. The team received information from an informant regarding a wildlife trader believed to be supplying a wide variety of species to several markets in Kratie province. When they arrived at his house, they conducted a search of the premises, which led to the rescue of 7 live pygmy slow lorises, 9 rat snakes, 2 pythons, 5 water snakes and 6 turtles. The team also found over 7 kgs of wildlife parts as well as dozens of skulls and horns.
The pygmy slow lorises, which were kept in appalling conditions, were taken to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center where they were given immediate medical attention. These sensitive animals are in urgent need of funds to ensure their survival. Make a gift to our Care for Rescued Wildlife program to provide them with the proper care and facilities they need to not only recover, but also thrive so that they may be released back into the wild.
The trader was prosecuted and the large seizure resulted in a hefty penalty of 10,000,000 Riel ($2,466.00 USD). In July alone, the WRRT conducted 46 successful operations and rescued 333 animals. Help them continue to dismantle the illegal wildlife trade by making a gift today!
Earlier this year, a concerned Ratanakiri resident contacted the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) regarding a wild black-shanked douc langur that had recently been captured by a trader. The kind resident found the langur in a market and purchased it in order to ensure that it would no longer be harmed and then contacted the WRRT through the local Forestry Administration office. The team found the dejected-looking animal tied and refusing all food. Langurs are sensitive leaf-eating monkeys and require specialized care in captivity. After explaining the situation to the owner, and examining the animal’s health, the team felt confident the langur was suitable for release.
The following day, the WRRT released the animal into protected forest in Kep Seima District of Mondulkiri Province. The area is already home to a group of wild douc langurs that the team hopes the released langur will join. As soon as he was released, his spirits revived and he immediately began happily feeding on the leaves in the trees!
Last quarter, the WRRT conducted 196 operations, rescued 514 animals and released 275 animals back into the wild. Help the team continue to rescue animals from being trafficked by making a donation today!
Last quarter, the WRRT scoured the Cambodian province of Battambang, raiding restaurants, markets and roads in order to bring offenders to justice.
The operation concentrated on eight main target areas including one restaurant, four markets, two roadside areas, and one bridge. These particular locations were raided several times by the WRRT over the course of three days. As a result, 950 wild birds were seized including purple herons, cotton pygmy geese, yellow bitterns, painted storks and many, many more. Seventeen non-repeat offender contracts were issued during the operation. All offenders were given education sessions and information about illegal wildlife trading in order to prevent future offences. Traders also received warnings from the WRRT about the consequences of re-offending in the future.
Recently, the WRRT has placed special focus on conducting more sophisticated, intensive, and proactive investigations and operations. This operation was developed with a specific law enforcement plan, spanned an entire province, and included several target locations that were raided multiple times in a short period in order to undermine a trafficking network. It demonstrated the increasing success that the WRRT is experiencing with these more sophisticated and comprehensive operations. Because the WRRT has succeeded in disrupting the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia by approximately 75%, those that are still trading have been driven even further underground and using even more sophisticated means to conduct their criminal enterprises. This means, that the WRRT must remain vigilant, and must constantly improve its techniques and approaches. Help the WRRTcontinue to dismantle trafficking networks and further deter the devastating illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia!
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison