Meet our hard working forest and wildlife protectors! After extensive planning and consultation with community members, the Community Anti Poaching Unit (CAPU) project was officially launched in 2007. Here are some stories from the poachers turned protectors in the CAPU team:
Mr. Sok Khem was a former poacher. He has a lot of empathy for his fellow community members who rely on logging and poaching as a primary source of income, but ultimately his desire to protect his forest and wildlife won out. So Sok approached the CAPU team to ask how he could help. We asked him why he wanted to make the change from poacher to protector. This is what he said:
My name is Sok Khem. I am 35 years old and I am from Cham Sla village, near Chi Phat in Koh Kong province . I have 3 children, including 1 daughter.
Before joining CAPU, I spent almost 5 years as a hunter. Hunting was my main job besides farming and collecting other products from the forest. As a hunter, I caught turtles, civets, wild boars and other animals. I knew it was wrong and illegal. I never ever felt good about this job as a poacher, but I needed money to support my family.
I realized when [wild animals] are gone, they will be gone forever. But I had no other choice!
I felt guilty sometimes when I killed wild animals and I realized when they are gone, they will be gone forever. But I had no other choice!
Then in 2015 , I met Mr.Cheoung Koun, (CAPU Group Leader) to ask if I could join the team. I really didn’t want to be a poacher anymore. I wanted to devote myself to help my community to protect wildlife and forest instead of destroying them. I thought this is a good choice for me.
A role model for the next generation
I also wanted to be a good father, to be a good model for my children; I don’t want them to be hunters like I was. Now, my family is happy because we don’t live in fear [of being caught poaching by law enforcement officers] like before.
I thought a lot before joining the team because I know that this is not an easy job. We have to trek in the deep forest carrying heavy equipment and confront high risks from animals and from poachers.
The risky business of protecting the Cardamoms
I heard about rangers getting kill while on duty. Additionally, I’m worried about the possible lack of resources, including patrol gear and food. However, when I started working with the team, I’m happy that we got support from Wildlife Alliance, including boots, shirts, backpacks, and food. Those things really help us a lot!
Protecting the forest by removing the death traps
Now, I’m glad that I can work as protector and really feel different than I did as a poacher.
During patrols, I estimate that we have reduced traps and snares for wild boars, deer, or sun-bear by almost 90%, but snares set for civets remain a problem. People in the village still put a lot of snares for civets and we need to work harder to manage this.
I would like to thank all donors for supporting our work. Without this support, we could not change ourselves from poachers to protectors!