Risking their lives to save endangered animals
On March 12, 2015, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) concluded a long running investigation on a trader previously identified by an informant in the province of Stung Treng. The team conducted extensive undercover surveillance in order to determine who was involved in the trading activities and to identify the best possible time to conduct a raid to ensure offenders were apprehended with wildlife in their possession. To avoid any information leaks or tip offs, the team withheld details of the operation from all other agencies until the morning of the raid when local court officials, Forestry Administration and local police were brought on board to assist.
After surrounding the house, access was gained but the traders refused to cooperate and even released live king cobras to distract the team. Undeterred, these highly experienced officers carefully captured each of the venomous snakes and a thorough search of the house resulted in the seizure of the 4 large king cobras, 5 rat snakes, 1 dried slow loris, 26 elongated tortoises, 2 giant Asian pond turtles and 4 snail-eating turtles. As king cobras are a threatened species, the traders were arrested and are currently being held in pre-trial detention, awaiting trial in the provincial court. All live wildlife was later transported to a protected area at Stung Proat in Koh Kong Province where they were successfully released back into natural habitats. The dried loris was destroyed at the local Forestry Administration office.
A lot of time and preparation goes into each operation conducted by the WRRT to ensure their efforts result in an open-and-shut prosecution. Wildlife trafficking uses a sophisticated network that preys on poverty stricken nations and people. Throughout the developing world, it is necessary to take precautions against corruption and information leaks, and doing so often puts the team dangerously at odds with other officials. However, these vigilant wildlife heroes remain unfaltering. Since 2001, they have rescued over 60,000 animals and confiscated 30 tons of wildlife products from poachers and illegal wildlife traders. The recent acceleration in demand – that is especially prevalent in China and Vietnam – requires us to expand our efforts and impact. It is critical for us to continue to provide direct protection to animals, many of which are facing extinction. Thank you for your commitment to help the WRRT in their efforts to stop illegal wildlife trafficking, and we hope you will continue to support this important cause.
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.
Tackling another snake
Confiscated animals and animal parts by the WRRT
Rescued snail-eating turtle