Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) recently confiscated almost 400 birds being sold along National Road 5 in Kampong Chhnang Province. A shocking 365 dead weaver birds were found in the raids, along with 4 dead spotted doves (Spilopelia chinensis) and 5 dead red collared doves (Streptopelia tranquebarica). A further 22 red collared doves were found alive and were released by WRRT back into the wild. Wildlife is commonly sold along the national road that connects the capital Phnom Penh with Thailand. Catching those trading illegal wildlife can often be difficult to catch, with vendors hiding wildlife in nearby forests or fleeing when wildlife police carry out raids.
An analysis of 17 years of data from WRRT’s work tackling Cambodia’s illegal wildlife trade found that birds were the most confiscated class of animal, with a total of 71,440 birds confiscated by the unit between 2001 and 2018. Birds are trafficked in Cambodia’s illegal wildlife trade for either food, as pets, or to be released for making spiritual merit (or ‘merit release’). Trade for merit release has led to the establishment of a considerable trade in the region. For example, it’s estimated around 690,000 are sold for merit release purposes in Phnom Penh alone a year. A recent Facebook post with photographs of dead leopard cats, snakes, and multiple bird species along National Road 5 shows the scale of the illegal wildlife trade taking place along the road.
A smuggled shipment of 281 kg (620 lbs) of suspected lion bones was seized in Cambodia after it was shipped from South Africa last year. Two Vietnamese nationals who claimed ownership of the shipment are in jail and are being investigated by the Cambodian customs. Cambodia is a well known transit country in the illegal wildlife trade for products heading to Vietnam and China. It is suspected that the lion bones were intended to be transported to Vietnam where they are popular in traditional medicines.
In 2016, more than 1.2 tons of elephant tusks, representing over 300 slaughtered elephants, was intercepted by Cambodian Customs on December 16th. It is well known that Cambodia is a transit country for ivory, however, this is only the second case of a shipment of big cat parts being seized in Cambodia. Tests to confirm the exact species of the bones are planning to be carried out. Wildlife Alliance is pleased to once again be working with our colleagues in Customs in another major Africa-Asia wildlife trafficking case.
Thank you for your support, which allows us to to crack down on Cambodia's growing role in the international wildlife trade.
Social media often gets a bad rap even in the role it plays in wildlife trafficking. But our recent rescue of an endangered pileated gibbon (Hylobates pileatus) shows that social media can be used for good!
We received many reports of a video circulating on Facebook in Cambodia of a gibbon chained by the neck. The the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) managed to track her down in Oddar Meanchey and were able to confiscate her with the assistance of local Forestry Administration officers. The beautiful female gibbon was brought to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center where she will receive permanent care by our dedicated staff. Unfortunately, because she has become dependent on humans, is is unlikely that she will be able to return to the wild.
Our wildlife trafficking team, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT), rescued a badly injured sun bear cub, missing a paw, in Steung Treng province, in the northeast of Cambodia. After receiving a tip off, they left yesterday evening and drove all night to rescue the injured cub, finally rescuing it this morning. They are now safely on their long way back to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, where they will hand it over to Free the Bears for further care.
October 18, 2019 - evening
The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) successfully arrived at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) where the bear will be treated by Free the Bears. The tiny sun bear weighs just 5 kg (11 lbs) immediately received veterinary care for her horrific snare injury that has severed her paw.
October 25, 2019 update
X-rays revealed that an infection from the snare injury spread to the bones remaining in her paw, requiring partial amputation. After surgery, she is doing well. Her stitches are secure, she does not have much swelling, and she is growing stronger and feistier, a good sign! Follow Free the Bears for further updates on this bear’s recovery as they care for her at Phnom Tamao.
Last month, Cambodia’s Economic Police intercepted a truck illegally transporting wildlife, including 57 monitor lizards and 50 yellow-headed temple turtles, which are Critically Endangered. Turtles are some of the most trafficked animals in Southeast Asia, largely for traditional medicine and meat and is driving many species towards extinction. Upon confiscating the wildlife, the Economic Police called the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) to handle and release the reptiles.
The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team has been Cambodia’s only law enforcement dedicated to countering wildlife crime since 2001 and while they have been very effective – having rescued nearly 75,000 animals from the wildlife trade – they are a small team with a nation-wide mandate. Getting calls like the one from the Economic Police are always welcome as it is a positive indicator that wildlife crimes are being taken more seriously and our efforts to collaborate with other law enforcement units has been effective.
The WRRT brought the water monitors to the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape where they were released with one of our ranger teams. The yellow-headed temple turtles, which are nearing extinction, were brought to and released in Tonle Sap Lake in collaboration with Fisheries Administration officers.
Your support of the WRRT has enabled us to shift attitudes towards taking wildlife trafficking as a serious crime throughout Cambodia.
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