Animals
 Cambodia
Project #13963

Help Stop Illegal Wildlife Trafficking

by Wildlife Alliance
Vetted
One of Cambodia
One of Cambodia's biggest ivory busts ever

In December, ivory, cheetah bones, and pangolin scales were seized in one of Cambodia's largest wildlife trafficking busts ever! The Cambodian government intercepted a shipment from Mozambique, leading to one of the biggest seizures of wildlife parts in the country's history. It took three days for the officers from Customs, Wildlife Alliance, and the U.S. Embassy to excavate the 1.3 metric tons of ivory, 10 cheetah skulls, 82 kgs (180 lbs) of cheetah bones, and 137 kgs (301 lbs) of pangolin scales, ensconced in a heavy, white wax substance and cleverly concealed inside three wooden containers. The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) is continuing investigations to locate and arrest the offender who is believed to be responsible for three other importations that were all intercepted before reaching Cambodia. 

There have been 19 confiscations of African ivory and rhino horn conducted by Customs and border officials in Cambodia since 2014. Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries have long been known to be a trade route for smuggled wildlife, but the large number of busts in recent years is an encourageing sign that times are changing. Thanks to the training Wildlife Alliance has conducted at shipping ports and airports with Customs officials and international haulage companies, the wildlife laws that are already in place are now being implemented by officials throughout the country. Cambodia is no longer the safe destination that it used to be for wildlife smugglers! Provincial officials are also now implementing sizeable confiscations of indigenous wildlife and call the WRRT for assistance with documentation and the safe transferal of wildlife either for release or for care at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. 

In addition to assisting in this major bust, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team made major strides toward disrtupting the wildlife trade last quarter. Over 174 operations, the ream rescued 1,046 animals, confiscated 2,226 dead animals and 301.5kg of meat, apprehended 29 wildlife traders, and released 1,049 animals. 

WRRT assisted Cambodian Customs officials
WRRT assisted Cambodian Customs officials
Ivory ensconced in heavy wax
Ivory ensconced in heavy wax

Links:

Slow loris rescued from the illegal wildlife trade
Slow loris rescued from the illegal wildlife trade

The 24-hour Wildlife Alliance Wildlife Rescue Hotline has proved to be an extremely successful way of obtaining information regarding the illegal wildlife trade. The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) was recently tipped off by an informant to inspect the Phsa Samaki Markets in Phnom Penh. There, from a single unattended stall, the team seized two slow lorises, a long-tailed macaque, a blossom-headed parakeet, two hill mynas, two white-vented mynas, eight common mynas, two black-collared starlings, one red collared dove and an Asian koel. Unfortunately, the traders escaped once they saw the team arriving, but the 20 rescued animals were taken to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. Less than a week later, the team was called to Bantheay Meanchey Province where local authorities had intercepted a shipment of a large quantity of live turtles. The team assisted the local authorities in prosecuting the wildlife trader for transporting 16 yellow-headed temple turtles, 60 box turtles and 20 black marsh turtles. The WRRT took the turtles to the Forestry Administration offices to be cared for overnight and released them the following day into protected natural habitats. These rescues are encouraging signs of the team’s efforts to educate and motivate provincial Forestry Administration offices to act on wildlife crime and to utilize the team’s wildlife crime hotline. Building capacity and providing support to local government offices is instrumental to creating lasting change and ensuring that wildlife trafficking is being tackled at every level.

Last quarter, the team rescued 1,277 animals and the hotline received 594 phone calls from Wildlife Alliance’s informant network, Forestry Administration offices requiring WRRT’s assistance, and from the public. Calls from the public come from both Cambodian citizens and from foreign visitors with information regarding a wildlife crime or the donation of an animal. The hotline is well advertised throughout the country and proves to be a very effective method of receiving information. 

Thank you for helping th Wildlife Rapid Rescue team rescue thousands of animals through your donation! 

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 member rescues a turtle
WRRT member rescues a turtle
WRRT rescues 90 turtles
WRRT rescues 90 turtles
The WRRT on patrol.
The WRRT on patrol.

On the morning of July 18th, after a long running investigation, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team arrested a prominent, international wildlife trader.  The investigation began when an informant provided details of a woman transporting a bear or bear parts from Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  The team was originally notified of the trader’s car and registration plate number and had planned to follow the car to its destination to make the arrest.  However, the trader changed cars multiple times, and the last tip the team received was the car type and the color of the driver’s shirt.  The team found a car matching that description 70 kilometers from the Thailand border.  They decided to pursue and stop the vehicle right away in order to prevent the offender from escaping and ensure the right person was arrested.  The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team searched the car and found a large cooler in the trunk containing the severed paws of an Asiatic black bear and a smaller cooler in the woman’s handbag with a bear gallbladder inside. 

The woman was arrested and taken to the local Forestry Administration office where she was charged with trading endangered wildlife, a crime punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison.  She will stay in pre-trial detention until her court appearance and is being questioned about the circumstances of her offence and others involved in the crime. Sadly, Asiatic black bears and sun bears are being brutally targeted by poachers in Cambodia for their body parts, which are used in traditional medicine.  Because of this active trade in bears and bear parts, their populations - especially in Southeast Asia – are rapidly declining. Cubs are torn from their mothers and sold into the pet trade.  When they get bigger, they end up imprisoned in tiny cages or sold to bile farms in Vietnam.  Wildlife Alliance has been working since 2001 to end the trade of wildlife in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia.  Since then, over 160 trafficked bears have been rescued.  However, the international demand remains high and continued efforts are needed to ensure the long-term survival of bears in the region.  

Thank you for your support in helping Wildlife Alliance and the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team end wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia!  

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 members with a bear they rescued.
WRRT members with a bear they rescued.
A WRRT member holds a rescued pangolin.
A WRRT member holds a rescued pangolin.

A local Cambodian man recently brought an injured pangolin to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) that he had taken from a wildlife trader. The kindhearted man felt sorry for the pangolin who was clearly suffering from injuries.  The man paid the trader the going black market rate for pangolins, $750!  With the best intentions in mind, the man brought the pangolin to PTWRC where he knew it would be in good care.  The PTWRC staff was able to treat the pangolin’s snare wounds in its hind legs and is hoping he will bond with another female pangolin at the rescue center.  If the endangered pangolins mate, their offspring will be released into the wild. 

Although Wildlife Alliance is very thankful for the kindness displayed by the local man, it is clear that our education efforts are not done yet.  The man had very good intentions, trying to rescue the injured and rare animal; unfortunately, purchasing the pangolin drives the illegal wildlife trade.  The best practice that Wildlife Alliance tries to promote is calling Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rescue Hotline at +855-12-500-094.  The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team always investigates the calls and can confiscate the animals and prosecute the traders.  The penalty for trading endangered species in Cambodia is a prison sentence.  While we are glad this injured pangolin is out of the trade network and in safe hands, it would have been more beneficial if the trader were apprehended as well.

Thank you for helping the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team save animals that fall victim to poachers and dissembling black market trade networks! 

Sun Bear cub rescued in Ratanakiri prison
Sun Bear cub rescued in Ratanakiri prison

In 2015, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team traveled to 447 Districts, conducted 564 successful operations, imposed $49,000 in fines, apprehended 137 traders, and rescued 3,288 animals from 85 difference species.

On March 3, we celebrated the 3rd annual World Wildlife Day. Created by the United Nations to raise awareness about the importance of all animals, as well as the urgent need to protect them, this year's theme is "the future of wildlife is in our hands” and it stresses the inseparable link between wildlife, people and sustainable development.

Our wildlife is under ever more pressing threat, and wildlife crime is putting many of the world's species in immediate danger of extinction. Estimated to be worth about $19 billion, organized wildlife crime promotes regional instability, preys on weak communities, funds terrorism and is driving species extinction. Wildlife trafficking is not just a regional problem, but a global issue with serious ramifications - and it is time that it be treated as such.

We would like to thank you for supporting these brave law enforcement officials that devote their lives daily to protect our planet. Your gift has prevented 3,288 animals from torture and certain death. The future of wildlife is in your hands, please make this upcoming Bonus Day on March 16th about protecting wildlife for future generations. 

Meet some of the animals that were given a second chance thanks to your incredible support:

A civet rescued from a market in Phnom Penh
A civet rescued from a market in Phnom Penh
A slow loris kept as a pet is now healthy at PTWRC
A slow loris kept as a pet is now healthy at PTWRC
Pelican rescued from trader supplying illegal zoos
Pelican rescued from trader supplying illegal zoos
198 turtles rescued from a restaurant are released
198 turtles rescued from a restaurant are released
Endangered langur given a second chance at PTWRC
Endangered langur given a second chance at PTWRC
 

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Organization Information

Wildlife Alliance

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.wildlifealliance.org
Project Leader:
Jessica Knierim
Development Associate
New York, New York United States

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