According to the Wildlife Alliance more than 90 percent of primate species in Cambodia are at risk for extinction. Thousands of them are sold every year as pets, for food or for use in medical experiments. The widespread destruction of the primate's natural habitat, mostly by illegal logging, is also reducing their numbers.
Cambodia's tropical forests are home to 10 known species of primates, including monkeys, gibbons and long-tailed macaques.
During Cambodia's long years of civil war the country's forests were often out of bounds to poachers and loggers. This enabled the primate population to flourish.
But in recent years the number of primates in Cambodia has fallen sharply as thousands are poached each year, mainly for sale in the illegal wildlife trade.
Roth Bunthoeun is the head biologist at the Cambodian government's Forestry Administration.
"Most species of primates are facing big problems in Cambodia now. They're being heavily hunted. In the old days people used to go and set snares just to catch tigers and bears. But now that those species are becoming harder to find, more and more people are going into the forests to hunt primates."
Nick Marx is the manager of Wildlife Alliance's Primate Rescue Programme in Cambodia. He says the illegal wildlife trade is making local primates' lives very difficult.
"They're eaten in certain countries, including Cambodia. They're also used for experiments—long-tailed macaques are used in experiments in the west. There's a trade for them there. Pirated gibbons, adults will be shot, and the babies will be taken and used as pets, sold as pets. The illegal wildlife trade is decimating populations of all species and is extremely cruel."
In 2000 the Wildlife Alliance in partnership with the Cambodian government set up the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre to rescue and rehabilitate primates and other endangered animals.
Covering an area of more than 2,200 hectares, the rescue center cares for more than 1,000 victims of the illegal wildlife trade, including Asian elephants and other threatened species like Asian tiger.
The center also runs Cambodia's only dedicated primate rescue and rehabilitation program which currently cares for more than 400 primates.
On arrival, the primates are kept in quarantine for 40 days to make sure that they are disease-free before they mingle with other animals. But the main aim is to prepare the animals for their re-release into the wild.
The Phnom Tamao rescue center has reintroduced more than three thousand primates since it opened in 2000. But Marx says with thousands more being depleted every year, it's an uphill battle.
"The situation for all wildlife, including primates, is becoming serious with deforestation and with trade, with expanding human populations. And it depends on how strongly governments and conservation organizations work as to whether they're successful in conserving primates and other species."
For CRI, I am Li Dong.
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