Animals
 Cambodia
Project #13963

Help Stop Illegal Wildlife Trafficking

by Wildlife Alliance
15 elephant tusks weighing 43 kg confiscated.
15 elephant tusks weighing 43 kg confiscated.

In October, in a landmark win for wildlife and counter-trafficking efforts, an ivory bust was processed through the Cambodian courts for the first time. The suspect was arrested in Siem Reap airport, where he was caught trying to smuggle 15 elephant tusks weighing 43 kg, 11 pieces of dried elephant tails weighing 1.9 kg, and 0.2 kg of claws and fangs of an unidentified big cat. Airport officials pulled the smuggler aside for questioning after finding his travel route suspicious. Flying from Angola, the trader stopped in Ethiopia, South Korea and Cambodia, before finally heading to his home country of Vietnam. The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) is cooperating with local officials to find the buyers, whom they believe live locally. The perpetrator has been charged with two counts of smuggling, and if found guilty could face 5 to 10 years in prison.

This case is also significant because it is the first time that the WRRT has been invited by airport customs officials to assist in a bust, and demonstrates to criminal networks that the government is taking international wildlife trafficking seriously. Strengthening ties with border and airport customs has been a major focus of the WRRT over the past three years, and this increased cooperation has already led to several successful seizures, including three tons of ivory seized at Sihanoukville harbor in May 2014. The WRRT, in conjunction with Wildlife Alliance’s Kouprey Express Mobile Environmental Education Team, has led several training sessions with customs officials to help improve the awareness of airport staff on the proper identification of wildlife as well as to help identify trafficking methods used by traders that transport wildlife through airfreight. These trainings have been very well received, and have proved to be beneficial in building the capacity of customs officials to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade.

Wildlife Alliance has found that Cambodia is increasingly being targeted as a trade route for ivory being transported to Vietnam and China, where it is estimated to be worth over $2,000 per kilogram on the black market. With the senseless slaughter of elephants continuing at unprecedented rates, it is clear that every country involved in the trade must work together to ramp up their efforts to save elephants from extinction. In Cambodia, Wildlife Alliance is directly addressing the illegal wildlife trade by strengthening law enforcement, while also reducing demand and increasing awareness through education and outreach. Thank you for helping us stop the illegal ivory trade, and make a difference for elephants!

The WRRT is a Forestry Administration law enforcement unit led by the Forestry Administration, in cooperation with the Military Police, with technical and financial support from Wildlife Alliance.

Rescued pangolin given a second chance at life
Rescued pangolin given a second chance at life

Last quarter, in an encouraging sign that our wildlife conservation awareness campaign is working, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) received a call on Wildlife Alliance’s nationwide rescue hotline from a resident near Oressey Market in Phnom Penh, about a pangolin that they had found on their property. The team arrived at the address and rescued the pangolin that had probably escaped from a nearby trader. The investigation into the origins of the pangolin is continuing. Considered the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world, the illegal trade in pangolins has reached epic proportions, and these once common animals are now classified as Critically Endangered. In China and Vietnam, their meat is considered a delicacy and is sold for $350 per kg; their scales are used in traditional medicine, and can be worth up to $1,000 per kg. This lucky pangolin was transported to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Resuce Center where it was given a medical examination and then subsequently released.

As a 12-man operation, the WRRT works effectively by utilizing an informant network system and a 24-hour hotline number that allows the general public to provide information on wildlife trafficking. The hotline is manned by Khem Vuthyravong, the WRRT manager. Thanks to Wildlife Alliance’s Anti-Trafficking Campaign which uses billboards and Public Service Announcements to improve awareness, the number of calls reporting on illegal wildlife has increased. Last quarter, the hotline received a total of 398 phone calls, of which 193 came from our own informants, 68 came from local Forestry Administration offices requiring our assistance or giving us information and 137 calls came from the public, either with information or the donation of an animal. Calls from the public came from both Cambodian citizens and foreign visitors. Little can be accomplished without assistance from local communities, and it is vital for the WRRT to continue to increase awareness and expand its informant network, and without these tips it would be impossible for the team to conduct nearly as many raids and rescue operations.

Thanks to your support and donations, so far this year the WRRT has conducted 303 operations, rescued 1,674 animals from the illegal wildlife trade, been able to release 1,674 healthy rescued animals and imposed $27,247 in fines for illegal wildlife trading. Help them continue to effectively work throughout the region and rescue victimized animals by making a gift today!

The WRRT is a Forestry Administration law enforcement unit led by the Forestry Administration, in cooperation with the Military Police, with technical and financial support from Wildlife Alliance.

Hotline call from a tourist about a baby macaque
Hotline call from a tourist about a baby macaque
Sun bear cub being kept illegally as a pet
Sun bear cub being kept illegally as a pet
Tip led to his rescue- he
Tip led to his rescue- he's now safe at the Center
Highly valued horns and reptiles
Highly valued horns and reptiles

On June 2, 2015, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) conducted two major raids that resulted in the confiscation of 44 various horns and skulls and the rescue of 82 live animals. The day began with a house raid in O’Krieng Village in the Sambo District of Kratie Province. The team received information about the trader from its network of informants and subsequently conducted investigations and surveillance on the suspect. Once their investigations confirmed that the trader was involved in illegal wildlife dealing, the WRRT went into action.

At dawn, the WRRT surrounded the house, preventing the trader from escaping or destroying evidence. Once inside, the team apprehended the suspected trader and conducted its search of the property, ultimately rescuing 27 Bengal monitors, one water monitor, three elongated tortoises, five rat snakes, one myna, and one changeable hawk! Unfortunately, the team isn’t always able to save every animal from this cruel trade. That morning, the WRRT also seized 31 various horns and 12 muntjac skulls and 0.2 kg of bear bone. These items are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, and the trade is putting a tremendous strain on wild populations.

Later that day, the team travelled to Tapaing Pring Village where they conducted a similar raid. The WRRT rescued four king cobras, 8 rat snakes, 23 tortoises, three civets, one softshell turtle, four Bengal monitors, and one python. In both instances, the traders were levied heavy fines, rescued animals were taken to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, and confiscated wildlife parts were destroyed.

Driven by the sharp rise in demand for rare animal products in countries like China and Vietnam, the prolific trade in illegal wildlife is estimated to be worth $19 billion. The WRRT works tirelessly to protect Cambodia’s wildlife, by investigating traders and bringing them to justice.

Thank you for your continued support and dedication to stopping wildlife trafficking. Make your gift go further this Bonus Day! On July 15th, donations of up to $1,000 made through GlobalGiving will be matched at 50% while funds last - hurry because funds run out quickly! With your help, we can stop Cambodia's wildlife from being hunted to extinction before it's too late!

Mark your calendars for July 15th and don't forget to share this great opportunity with your friends!

The WRRT is a Forestry Administration law enforcement unit led by the Forestry Administration, in cooperation with the Military Police, with technical and financial support from Wildlife Alliance.

WRRT with apprehended traders
WRRT with apprehended traders
82 lives animals rescued and 44 horns confiscated
82 lives animals rescued and 44 horns confiscated
The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team
The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team

Wildlife Alliance is proud to announce that the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) has been selected as a winner of the United Nations Environment Program’s Asia Environmental Enforcement Award (AEEA). The award from the United Nations recognizes the WRRT’s excellent work in combating environmental crime in Cambodia. Wildlife Alliance hopes that this acknowledgement dedicated to raising awareness about wildlife crime, will highlight the urgent need for more support and action in order to end illegal trafficking of wildlife and wildlife parts.

The award ceremony took place on May 20, 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, before the Asia-Pacific Roundtable on Environmental Rule of Law for Sustainable Development. Senior officials including Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary, ESCAP, Chief Justices and Environment Ministers in Asia participated in the Roundtable and presented the award to the winners of AEEA. In his opening statement, Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General said, "Environmental crime undermines sustainable development. It is not only a threat to species, to habitats and to ecosystems, but also to human health, livelihoods and national economies. Enforcement action and efforts need to be recognized and awarded."

Since 2001, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team, a wildlife crime investigation and counter-trafficking unit composed of government and non-government staff, have fought to curb the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. The WRRT conducts operations on roads, in restaurants, in forests and in known and suspected wildlife markets. The team travels around the country intercepting illegal shipments of wildlife, responding to tips from informants and anonymous sources, investigating known wildlife trade offenders for potential new offenses, and rescuing wildlife victimized by wildlife traders, or caught in human-wildlife conflicts. Since its launch, the WRRT has rescued over 60,000 victims from the wildlife trade, resulting in a 75% reduction in wildlife trafficking country-wide, and a 90% decrease in wildlife sales in Phnom Penh restaurants. Their tireless hard work has led to the arrest or fining of over 2,700 offenders. Without the constant surveillance of the WRRT, endangered species throughout Southeast Asia would have disappeared entirely.

We applaud the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team for their accomplishments and commitment to ending the illegal wildlife trade. We would also like to thank all the generous supporters that believe firmly in this mission. Their incredible work would not be possible without your dedication and passion for wildlife protection.

The WRRT is a Forestry Administration law enforcement unit led by the Forestry Administration, in cooperation with the Military Police, with technical and financial support from Wildlife Alliance.

Rescued sun bear cub being kept as a pet
Rescued sun bear cub being kept as a pet
Since 2001, over 60,000 animals have been rescued
Since 2001, over 60,000 animals have been rescued
Rare baby douc langur rescued by the WRRT
Rare baby douc langur rescued by the WRRT

This week, we launched a microproject to help the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) rescue trafficked primates in Cambodia. We would like to thank you for your continued support, and share some of the important work the WRRT does to combat this illicit trade.

There are 634 species and subspecies of primates in the world, from humans and apes to monkeys and prosimians. These incredible animals are known to show a range of emotion, have opposable thumbs, use tools and have complex, species-specific social behaviors. People are often fascinated by these diverse, highly intelligent, social creatures, because so much of our own behavior and evolution is reflected in them. Sadly the future of mankind’s closest relatives is uncertain. Rampant habitat destruction exacerbated by poaching for food and to supply traditional Chinese medicine and the illegal pet trade are decimating primate populations. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 48% percent of all primate species are threatened, and over 70% of Asian primates are facing extinction. In Cambodia nine out of the 10 primate species are listed as either Endangered or Threatened. Entire families and troops are caught in order to be sold as food or for lab research, and infants are torn away from their mother and sold into the exotic pet trade until owners realize they cannot control these wild animals.

While the situation maybe dire, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) is actively fighting to protect these 10 species before it’s too late. Since 2001, the WRRT, a law enforcement squad devoted solely to combating the illegal wildlife trade, has rescued over 2,500 gibbons, langurs, macaques and lorises. Last year alone, the team rescued 85 live primates from 8 different species. Seven of the 8 species types rescued last year are listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered, all with decreasing population trends. The WRRT’s presence in Cambodia to rescue primates and halt the illegal wildlife and pet trade is critical. Every individual primate rescued is significant to the survival and continuation of the species. Rescued animals that can no longer survive in the wild are given a life-long home at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC).

Caretakers at PTWRC work hard to rehabilitate the animals, and house them in spacious enclosures to facilitate natural behavior. These large, natural enclosures enable the process of de-humanization in order to make their offspring suitable for reintroduction into the wild. Wildlife Alliance has been reintroducing primates back into the wild for several years, most notably with the recent release of gibbons and langurs into the Angkor Temple Forest Complex. It costs the WRRT approximately $55 to rescue a primate and approximately $500 to conduct a successful operation. This consists of paying informants, researching trade networks, conducting undercover investigations, saving the animals, and providing care to rescued animals during transit to a release site or Phnom Tamao Rescue Center. This Bonus Day, make your gift go even further by supporting our new campaign to Help Rescue Primates from Illegal Trafficking! Your gift will help the WRRT continue to protect, conserve and save primate species in Cambodia!

Endangered gibbon captured from the forest
Endangered gibbon captured from the forest
Baby pygmy slow loris rescued from the pet trade
Baby pygmy slow loris rescued from the pet trade
Baby black shanked douc langur kept as a pet
Baby black shanked douc langur kept as a pet

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Organization Information

Wildlife Alliance

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.wildlifealliance.org
Project Leader:
Chloe Lala-Katz
Communications and Finance Field Liaison
New York, New York United States