Wildlife Alliance rangers have uncovered a new type of innovative homemade gun that poachers are using to decimate wildlife in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains. Only a few guns of the new design have been confiscated by rangers, all of them in recent months, suggesting that poachers are starting to change their tactics. The new design is made entirely from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic and uses marbles as ammunition; a small gas canister fills up a plastic chamber that fires a marble at a sufficient speed to kill the animal.

These aren’t the first homemade guns confiscated by rangers. Since the establishment of the Cardamom Forest Protection Program in 2002, more than 900 guns have been confiscated from the hands of poachers. However, these new guns differ from their more-traditional counterparts — the design is far more simple — that are made from wood and rely on gunpowder to fire loose ball bearings. 

One of the new design guns confiscated from poachers by Wildlife Alliance rangers.

Gun powder is easily obtainable to poachers; Wildlife Alliance rangers have even found the remnants of plastic bullet toys at illegal poacher camps that were ground down to retrieve powder. Not all poachers use homemade guns though. Some are able to get their hands on AK-47 machine guns that are far more effective at poaching wildlife and also pose a far greater threat to our rangers as they work to protect one of Southeast Asia’s last great rainforests.

Gunpowder removed from a kid’s toy that was found in an illegal poacher’s camp.

Homemade guns are simple and cheap to make but they can have devastating impacts on Cambodia’s wildlife. Animals that fall victim to being shot end up as bushmeat — the meat of wild animals hunted for human consumption — trafficked onto urban centers or further onto Vietnam and China. Whilst Wildlife Alliance’s rangers are fighting the illegal wildlife trade at the source, our Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) is cracking down on the middlemen and traders in urban centers ensuring that the trade is being tackled across the entire supply chain.