By Jessie Knierim | Director of Development and Communications
CAPU rangers remove a civet snare
One of the most significant threats to the important wildlife of the Cardamom Rainforest is poaching using snares by commercial hunters coming from outside the region. Wire snares are easy to make and conceal but have a devasting impact on wildlife as they are non-selective and able to kill or disable a wide variety of species. Though snares are often set for wild pigs, to service the illegal wildlife meat trade in urban restaurants, they kill or maim many non-target species including elephants, Asian wild dogs, and bears. Many snared animals are simply left to die and rot in the forest. Recent camera-trapping has shown that more than half of the elephant calves in the landscape show signs of snare injuries to their trunks or legs.
Members of the Chi Phat and Areng Valley communities have stepped up to end this concern through creating Community Anti-Poaching Units and implementing targeted snare-removal patrols. The community rangers operate in villages where Wildlife Alliance is supporting Community-Based Ecotourism (CBET) as this is where communities see a direct financial benefit, through tourist visitors, in safeguarding their wildlife and biodiversity. As such their motivation to support conservation efforts, and patrol to remove snares, is high. Before these villages became CBET programs, they were the centers of illegal activity, particularly poaching and wildlife trade.
The community rangers are trained on how to patrol efficiently and effectively and how to detect and remove snares. Each unit patrols an area of approximately 10-km radius that they identify as facing high snare threats and are key areas for elephants. CAPU team members will also be trained on basic animal welfare and handling so any live animals found in snares can be safely transferred to the Wildlife Alliance managed Wildlife Release Station on the edge of the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape. The empowerment of these communities has transformed them from poaching hotspots to wildlife guardians.
Relentless heavy rains last month caused massive flooding throughout much of western Cambodia. The village of Chi Phat, which Wildlife Alliance helps support through a community-based ecotourism program, was completely submerged in water, affecting 200 families. Wildlife Alliance Rangers took rice and other provisions to the affected families, many of which had to be delivered by boat. The rangers also checked on the welfare of the community members and transported an individual to the hospital because his boat was broken, leaving him stranded in his home.
As the flood waters recede, Wildlife Alliance continued to monitor the situation and provide support to communities as needed. Although Wildlife Alliance is primarily a conservation organization, we recognize that the wellbeing and support of the community members who live in the areas we protect is critical to our success. That is why Wildlife Alliance helped Chi Phat to develop and maintain an ecotourism program for 17 years and will continue to provide emergency relief.
Thank you for helping us support this community and empower them to develop sustainable livelihoods. To help support our emergency relief efforts and directly support the affected families, please consider making another donation today.
Former poacher turned community ranger reflects on his work
By Jessie Knierim | Development Associate
The Community-Based Ecotourism project in the village of Chi Phat provides the community with an alternative source of income so residents do not have to resort wildlife poaching or illegal logging. Although the locals have stopped poaching, the surrounding forest is still teeming with wildlife and attracts outside hunters. To protect their forest, 12 community members, along with 2 Ministry of Environment rangers and a Wildlife Alliance technical advisor created the Community Anti-Poaching Unit (CAPU).
Below, a CAPU ranger and former poacher, reflects on his drastic career change and why he is proud to protect the forest surrounding his home.
My name is Ven. I’m 35 years old living in Cham Sla village, Chi Phat commune, Thmor Bang district, Koh Kong province . I have 3 children (1 daughter).
Prior, I spent my life almost 5 years as a hunter. At that time, hunting was my main job besides farming and collecting by-products from the forest. Mostly, I caught turtles, civets, and wild boars…ect. I knew it was wrong and illegal and I never ever felt good with this job as a poacher, but I need money to support my family. I felt guilty sometimes when I killed wild animals and I realized when they are gone, they will be gone forever, but I had no choice!
Later on, in 2015 I knew about CAPU and I went to meet with Mr. Cheoung Koun, (CAPU Group Leader) asked him to join with the team. I really didn’t want to work as poacher anymore. I wanted to devote myself to help community to protect wildlife and forest instead of destroy them. I thought this is the good choice for me and I want to be a good father, to be a good model for my children, I don’t want them to be hunters like me before. My family also gets happy because we no need to live in fear as before.
Before joining with the team, I put a lot of thinking due to this is not easy job. We have to trek in the deep forest carrying with heavy stuffs and confront with high risks from the animals; especially, poachers who keep us as their enemies. I knew in the news that rangers got kill during their mission in the forest; additionally, I’m worried about patrol gears and food that are not adequate for our team. However, when I started working with the team around 1 year, I’m happy that we got support from the donors such as boots, shirts, backpacks, and incentive for food. Those things really help us a lot!
Now, I’m glad that I can work as protector and really feel different from being as poacher.
I can see that during our patrol, traps and snares for wild boars, deer, or sun-bear are reduced almost 90%, but we still have problem with snares for civets. People in the village still put a lot of snares for civets and we need to work harder to control about this. We really need more support from WA, community and local authority because only us, we can’t stop them.
I would like to thanks to all donors who always support us for our work. We could not change our life to be protector without all those supports!
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