By Mengey Eng
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| September 28, 2017
Mondulkiri, Cambodia (September 28, 2017) – Today, the Mondulkiri Department of Environment, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), organized a third bi-lateral meeting since 2015, between four provinces of Cambodia (Mondulkiri and Kratie) and Vietnam (Binh Phuoc and Dak Nong) on wildlife trafficking. The meeting, “Combatting illegal wildlife trafficking between Cambodia and Vietnam”, was opened by the Deputy Provincial Governor of Mondulkiri and participated in by more than 52 participants from national and subnational government agencies from both countries, including the Department of Environment, Police agencies, Customs, Border Army, Forestry officials, protected area directors, and the provincial judiciary.
“The main purpose of this meeting is to develop cooperation between local authorities in four border provinces of Viet Nam and Cambodia in the fight against wildlife trafficking,” said Sarah Brook, Technical Advisor for Counter Wildlife Trafficking for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “The Eastern Plains landscape is a very important area for biodiversity conservation in Cambodia with populations of many threatened species that have been extirpated elsewhere, and unfortunately that makes it a hotspot for illegal poaching and cross border trade”.
Surveys conducted by WCS on both sides of the border have shown that poaching and trafficking of wildlife from Cambodia to Vietnam is commonplace in the area, involving a multitude of species including those that are very rare such as leopard, pangolin and primates. “In order to protect Cambodia’s wildlife, we have to try to reduce illegal cross border trade,” said Tan Setha, WCS Cambodia Landscape Technical Advisor. “And that means we need effective cooperation between law enforcement agencies working on both sides of the border, to be able to investigate these crimes and prosecute the criminal networks profiting from this trade.”
At the meeting, participants have had opportunity to share experiences of wildlife trafficking cases, to hear from the president of the Provincial Court of First Instance on the requirements and judicial procedures for prosecuting wildlife traffickers, to better understand formal and informal bi-lateral communication channels, and to visit a border gate to witness the challenges of regulating cross-border trade.
The Deputy Director of Mondulkiri Department of Environment, Pet Phaktra, stated “To prevent transboundary wildlife trafficking, specialist agencies need to work closely to eliminate wildlife trading markets, restaurants, warehouses, and educate people to understand the importance of wildlife and forests to our countries. If we do it together we can eliminate illegal wildlife trading.”
“The purpose of this training program is to strengthen cooperation to support the conservation of biodiversity in the Eastern Plains Landscape of Cambodia, together with the southern Annamites landscape in Vietnam. Wildlife trafficking is a key driver of the loss of biodiversity in this important region, so I urge all agencies to actively participate in this meeting and to continue to exchange information and cooperate to prevent wildlife trafficking, so that our natural resources can be preserved,” he added.
The training course was made possible with funding from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) under the U.S. Department of State and the USFWS.