Forest Rangers Changing Local Perceptions of Wildlife Crime

The abundant biodiversity of the Cardamom Mountains is blatantly apparent to anyone who steps foot in its rainforests. And yet, there has not been a comprehensive scientific study on the status and conservation significance of the landscape. However, even with the little research we have on the region, it is evident that the protection of this landscape is vital for the conservation of its inhabitants. Wildlife Alliance’s Director of Science, Dr. Thomas Gray, and his colleagues from other conservation organizations and the Cambodian government compiled data on mammals from seven camera trap studies in the region to build a picture of the Cardamom landscape as a whole. Of the 30 ground-dwelling mammal species captured on film, 11 of the species are globally Threatened. What was not captured on camera also provides valuable information to the status of those missing species. Although native to the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape, no evidence of tigers or leopards was captured in these studies, further suggesting that they have already been extirpated from the region. In order to preserve the remaining animals, there needs to be a greater response to conservation tactics in the Cardamom Mountains, especially in fighting against illegal human activities.

The greatest threats to the wildlife that live there are poaching, particularly through wildlife snares, domestic dogs, and the destruction of habitat from logging or slash and burn farming. Despite the Cardamom Mountains’ protected status, there has not always been strict implementation and enforcement of the Protected Area Law. Therefore, many people do not see any real personal risk in performing illegal acts and only reap the benefits of selling illegal wildlife of timber. To combat this disregard for the law and to protect the mountains, Wildlife Alliance has teamed up with the government to implement policies through on-the-ground action. Our mission is to recruit and train rangers who will patrol certain protected areas in the Cardamom Mountains to remove snares, rescue wildlife taken by poachers, stop illegal logging, and appropriately punish criminal actions.

Wildlife Alliance’s approach has led to the removal of around 20,000 snares every year. Snares alone pose a serious threat to not only the intended animal, but also to innocent by-catch. Snares are presumably the cause of the reported increases in injuries and decreased populations of wildlife species, such as dholes and greater hog badgers. Now that poachers are recognizing there is a real possibility of legal punishment, Wildlife Alliance has noticed a drop in wildlife crime in the region. In comparison to the estimated 38 Asian elephant poaching cases from 2000 to 2004 in the Cardamom Mountains, there have been zero successful elephant poaching cases in Cambodia since 2006. The success of Wildlife Alliance’s on-the-ground action has resulted in a push for an expansion in patrol teams and patrol areas. Earlier this year, we recruited an additional 65 forest rangers that are now stationed in what was once an unregulated protected area and are ready to put a stop to criminal behavior.

To help support the rangers and protect the animals in the Cardamom Mountains, please make a donation to ‘Forest Protection’.

Cambodian Journal of Natural History

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