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’.

A Collaborative Effort Saves 689 Animals from International Trade

In late May, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) was provided with intelligence regarding a large shipment of wildlife that was to be transported from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Vietnam where it was to be sold. After a thorough investigation, the team learned that the transport was going to take place on June 3rd in Prey Veng province, so they headed there to intercept the vehicle. The Prey Veng Anti-Economic Police collaborated with the WRRT by taking up positions to intercept the vehicle and apprehend the wildlife trader if he took an alternate route. 

The suspected vehicle was first sighted and stopped by the Prey Veng Anti-Economic Police who immediately called the WRRT team to help. When the WRRT arrived, the trader had just been apprehended after his vehicle was stopped and searched. The WRRT assisted with the prosecution documents and provided guidance to the Anti-Economic Police on the correct documentation procedures. They also trained the Anti-Economic police officers on how to properly handle wildlife while preparing the necessary documentation, such as inventorying the animals and parts.

As the trader awaited his court appearance, the WRRT transported all of the rescued wildlife to Phnom Penh where it was cared for overnight.  In total, 665 kg of wildlife was seized including, 137 Bengal monitors, 387 rat snakes, 5 Asian pound turtles, 15 box turtles, 7 yellow headed temple turtles, and 138 water snakes. All of the animals have since been released in separate protected areas within the provinces of Koh Kong and Pursat with the help and cooperation of Wildlife Alliance’s Southern Cardamom Forest Protection Program (SCFPP) and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) government officials.

This operation is evidence that joint operations with provincial authorities are happening more regularly, which has been beneficial to the wildlife, forests, and people of Cambodia. The involvement and presence of the WRRT also acts as an anti-corruption measure and prevents individuals from being persuaded to accept bribes of any kind. Had the team and the local authorities not been at the operation and successfully working together, it is quite possible a bribe could have been negotiated and the wildlife would now be on the markets in Vietnam instead of free in the wild. To help the WRRT and counterparts continue their successful operations visit our donations page and select ‘End Wildlife Trafficking’.

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 the Wildlife Alliance.

The Kouprey Express Goes Abroad

The Kouprey Express (KE) mobile education team has returned from their second ever international trip to Thailand! The KE team spent a week in Thailand, near the Thai-Cambodian border, working with four Thai National Park Rangers to provide environmental lessons to 257 primary and secondary school students. This cross-border collaboration is helping to preserve Thailand and Cambodia’s natural heritage in a region where the two cultures meld and the wildlife is not confined by international borders. In this southeastern region of Thailand, not only are the landscape and wildlife very similar to that in Cambodia, but around 30% of the people also speak the Cambodian language of Khmer. The KE team translated all of their educational materials into Thai to ensure the same message of conservation is being spread on both sides of the border.  These lessons inspire students and community members to love wildlife and to preserve their natural environment as well as understand the impacts of climate change. As a special treat for the students, rangers and staff from Ta Phraya National Park accompanied the KE team to provide students in depth information about the forestry and wildlife laws of Thailand. They also helped teach the students the forestry and wildlife crime hotline numbers for both Thailand and Cambodia.

This international collaboration is ensuring that conservation efforts are not restrained by borders and is helping students to understand that it does not matter where you come from but that we all need to work together to protect nature and our planet. As we raise a new generation of conservationists, we hope they will grow up with a new mindset towards natural resources and they will avoid damaging forests and poaching wildlife. This international effort was made possible by our longtime supporters at the Freeland Foundation, and the Kouprey Express team is eagerly planning their next trip to Thailand in the next few months! To help the KE team continue to inspire young people to protect their natural heritage, please visit our donation page and select ‘Environmental Education & Outreach’ from the list of funds.

International Tiger Day – July 29th

Join us in celebrating International Tiger Day, on July 29, 2017! This day was established to promote public awareness and support for tiger conservation. The tiger is the world’s largest cat and is currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN. Just 100 years ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers in Asia, but today, there are less than 3,000. In the last 80 years, three of the nine subspecies have gone extinct, and the futures of the other six remain dire. The primary threats facing tigers are habitat loss, depletion of prey species and poaching.

Tigers once roamed the entire continent of Asia, but with human expansion they have lost over 93% of their original range. They now survive in small, isolated pockets of forest, where they are vulnerable to poaching and inbreeding. As forests shrink and prey species become scarce, human-tiger conflict increases. And while there has been a ban of the international commercial trade of tigers since 1975, insufficient enforcement of the law has led to sustained poaching. The illegal trade of tiger parts remains a lucrative business, with their bones, meat and skin valued at around $70,000 on the black market. In China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, captive breeding facilities have been allowed to proliferate with little oversight and regulation. These tiger farms contribute to the commercial trade of the tiger parts, while fronting as conservation breeding facilities.

Globally, the plight of the tiger remains a pressing issue, and we are on the verge of losing this beautiful and iconic species. At Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, we care for six tigers rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, and this year you can help make a difference by sponsoring our tiger, Araeng. We will also be celebrating International Tiger Day by posting some tiger facts, pictures, and stories on our social media platforms. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about these incredible animals, and help us raise awareness!