Phnom Penh, Cambodia - A new report reveals that the use of a very toxic pesticide is killing wild animals and may seriously affect the health of local communities in rural Cambodia.
Between January and August 2015, the Wildlife Health and Health Policy (WHHP) program of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked closely with WCS field teams in Preah Vihear and Birdlife International in Siem Pang district, Stung Treng province to document a series of wildlife poisoning cases. Six wild animals including vulnerable species (large-spotted civets, woolly-necked stork) and critically endangered slender-billed vulture were found dead by forest rangers and wildlife monitoring teams close to different waterholes.
“Laboratory analyses revealed that those wild animals were poisoned with a very toxic pesticide, Carbofuran, which in many cases had been intentionally spread in the waterhole to capture wild animals,” said Dr. Mathieu Pruvot, WHHP Team Leader. “We also found that both livestock and humans were affected in the same areas after drinking the water contaminated with the poison. We are also extremely worried that more people may become sick by consuming poisoned animals.”
Carbofuran is a carbamate pesticide, often used for insect control. Its very high acute toxicity, particularly in birds, has resulted in a large number of primary and secondary poisonings. In humans, symptoms of carbofuran poisoning may include: weakness, vomiting, abdominal cramps, sweating, diarrhea, excessive salivation, breathing difficulty, neurological symptoms, and death. Due to its high acute toxicity, Carbofuran was banned from many countries in the world (the United States, Canada, and the European Union), often following large die-off of wild birds. Other carbamates, such as bendiocarb and propoxur, are useful and safe when used for the indoor control of mosquito species that transmit malaria, and are on the list of insecticides recommended for this use by the World Health Organization.
“There is growing concern as poisoning is rapidly becoming one of the main threats to Cambodia’s wildlife conservation. Actions are urgently needed,” warns Dr. Ross Sinclair, WCS Cambodia Country Director.
In June 2016, a detailed report about the recent poisoning cases in Cambodia was released during a meeting between representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Environment, as well as other international partners in the health sector who are taking the matter seriously and hoping to take initial steps to address this issue.
Dr. Robert Newman, Cambodia Country Director for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) highlighted that “it is essential to address the risks posed by the presence of highly toxic pesticides in markets, and it is urgent to develop more laboratory capacity in the country to detect the presence of toxic chemicals in the environment, food items, and biological samples from affected people and animals.”
Dr. Ly Sovann, Director of the Communicable Disease Control Department in Cambodia, expressed his deep concern regarding these findings. “It is a significant concern, and a serious threat for wildlife and public health. This issue requires immediate attention to protect Cambodia’s wildlife and the Cambodian people.”