The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) is a small group, yet has the enormous responsibility of detecting and prosecuting illegal wildlife trade offenders across all 26 provinces of Cambodia.  Because the small team has such a monumental task, the WRRT has been working to improve their relationships with other Forestry Administrations and provincial Law Enforcement Authorities involved in wildlife crime detection.  Through these improved relationships, the WRRT has been educating local government officials throughout the country and has been promoting them to pursue wildlife crime cases.  These efforts have resulted in a significant increase in the number of wildlife crime cases that are being detected and prosecuted by provincial authorities all over Cambodia.

On June 4th, Customs officers received information concerning a boat illegally transporting wildlife that was destined for the Vietnamese and Chinese markets. The Koh Thom Customs Office, called the WRRT for assistance, and Customs officials and the WRRT were able to locate the boat, but the offenders managed to escape just before authorities arrived.  Although the offenders escaped apprehension, hundreds of animals’ lives were saved.  The WRRT and local authorities rescued 468 rat snakes, 2 Burmese pythons, 104 elongated tortoises, 8 yellow-headed temple turtles, 21 giant Asian pond turtles, 178 Asian leaf turtles and 4 Asian box turtles.  All the animals were transported directly to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center where they were assessed by veterinary staff.  In the upcoming weeks, the animals will all be released into protected natural habitats once they are deemed fit.  This case is indicative of the importance of the WRRT’s efforts to improve their relationship with other officials. Sustained law enforcement throughout the region is crucial to deterring wildlife trafficking. The WRRT must continue to grow their network and influence in order to keep having big busts like this one, sending a clear message to criminal networks that wildlife crime will not be tolerated.

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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.