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!
Last week we celebrated the first ever World Wildlife Day! Created by the United Nations to highlight the incredible animals with which we share our planet, this day also serves to remind us of the urgent need to protect them. In his message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked citizens and governments to commit to help end illegal wildlife trafficking, stating that, “the environmental, economic and social consequences of wildlife crime are profound. Of particular concern are the implications of illicit trafficking for peace and security in a number of countries where organized crime, insurgency and terrorism are often closely linked.” Our wildlife is under ever more pressing threat, and wildlife crime is putting many of the world's species in immediate danger of extinction.
Since 2001, Wildlife Alliance has been working to halt this criminal trade. We partnered with the Cambodian government to create a special wildlife crime investigation and counter-trafficking unit known as the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT). This team travels throughout Cambodia conducting undercover operations, investigating trafficking networks, intercepting wildlife shipments and rescuing animals. The WRRT has rescued over 56,000 animals and confiscated 30 tons of wildlife products since 2001. In 2013 alone, the team conducted 640 operations, apprehended 189 traders, imposed $16,000 in fines, and rescued 2,616 animals from the wildlife trade. While the team has made remarkable advances in tearing down the trafficking network in Cambodia, the deterrents are not enough to put an end to wildlife crime. Recently, wildlife is increasingly being transported from Thailand into Cambodia and then onto Vietnam. To address this new trend, the WRRT initiated meetings with border authorities, including Customs officials and local police at well known wildlife trafficking points. The purpose of the meetings has been to strengthen ties and encourage authorities to work closely with the WRRT regarding the transnational trading of wildlife and wildlife parts. Increased cooperation with border and airport officials has already led to several successful arrests, and we hope to continue to build on these relationships in the upcoming year. It has become clear the illegal trade is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the WRRT is utilizing all its resources to continue to work aggressively to end wildlife trafficking in Cambodia. We urge you to help us celebrate this inaugural event by supporting the rangers and law enforcement officials that devote their lives daily to protect our planet.
Recently, Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team raided a house based on information provided by an informant, and found a staggering amount of python gallbladders (1,054) and 158 kilograms of python fat.
The trader was operating a wedding equipment hire business on the ground floor as a front for the python processing factory upstairs. This location had previously been targeted by the team, however no wildlife was found at the time. After extensive surveillance, the team identified the best time to conduct the raid resulting in Thursday’s successful operation.
The trader is being sent to the Kandal provincial court and is charged based on Article 96 of the Forestry Law for the amount of $12,500 USD. Help the WRRT in their efforts to end illegal wildlife trafficking by making a donation today!
The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) recently responded to several calls via Wildlife Alliance’s 24 hour rescue hotline number reporting wildlife being kept as pets. The nationwide hotline number is an important tool for the WRRT as it allows the general public to provide information on wildlife crimes. Without these tips, it would be impossible for the team to conduct nearly as many raids and rescue operations. These particular calls resulted in the rescue of several animals that were kept in appalling conditions. In Phnom Penh, a python and young macaque were rescued, both suffering from injuries and malnutrition. The next day, the WRRT received information concerning two different residents of Prek Khmeng village that were illegally keeping a leopard cat kitten and a rare lesser adjutant. The team successfully confiscated both animals, and educated the owners about the consequences of illegally keeping wildlife. All the animals were taken to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC), where they are being rehabilitated.
The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team often comes in contact with residents that keep wildlife as pets. Due to lack of education and knowledge of laws governing wildlife, these animals are often kept in horrendous conditions, subjected to cramped spaces and poor diets. We also receive many donations of animals that have been kept as pets until the owners realize they cannot control a wild animal. Their misguided attempts to change the animal’s natural behavior often leads to mistreatment or confinement. However, due in part to Wildlife Alliance’s Anti-Trafficking Campaign, using billboards and Public Service Announcements, there has been a marked increase in the number of calls reporting on illegal wildlife activity by the general public. This shows that awareness about the wildlife trade is growing, and continued efforts must be made to educate the public on the issue. Help the WRRT prevent another wild animal from ending up a pet by making a donation today!
In early July, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) received information from an informant regarding a Vietnamese wildlife trader believed to be regularly traveling to Cambodia to purchase wildlife before returning to Vietnam where the wildlife was sold. The information suggested the trader was operating at various locations a short distance inside the Cambodian border in the province of Takao.
The WRRT commenced an investigation that included long hours of patrolling and surveillance before identifying the suspected trader. The suspect was operating from a roadside location approximately 4.5 miles from the Vietnam border and just off National Road #2 in Kampong Village of Takao Province. Surveillance indicated she was buying wildlife from a number of people who regularly visited her stall. Local residents informed the team that she was trading fish, eel and frogs.
On Tuesday, August 6, 2013, the WRRT apprehended the trader at the above location and rescued 57 spotted doves, 27 red collared doves, 1 water snake, 5 rat snakes. Several bags of chequered keelback snakes, white spotted slug snakes, common blind snakes and common blackhead snakes, weighing in at 41 lbs were also found.
When questioned, the 28 year old female trader confessed to purchasing the wildlife from various local sources with the intention of selling the animals in Vietnam. Indications are that the trader had been offered some level of protection by authorities on both sides of the border. In order to avoid any interference in the operation, the trader was transferred 19 miles to the local Forestry Administration office and the prosecutor was called to ensure the trader was dealt with in accordance with the law. When questioned further, the trader also informed the team that she was well known to authorities stationed at the border checkpoint and was never stopped or searched while crossing back into Vietnam.
As all of the species rescued were classified as common, the trader received a fine of 4,500,000 Riel ($1,125 USD). Rescued snakes were later released into suitable habitats, and as some of the doves had clipped wings and others appeared injured, all were transported to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) to be assessed prior to release.
The recent acceleration in demand for wildlife in countries like Vietnam and China requires us to expand our efforts and impact. It is critical for us to continue to protect these animals.
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison