Illegal wildlife snares pose big challenges

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Wildlife found trapped in a protected area in an undated photo released by the environment ministry on Wednesday. ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY

The Ministry of Environment remain committed to enforcing laws against the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia. It said that in 2021, rangers and partner NGO officials removed a total of 61,611 snares installed in natural protected areas.

The ministry said the number of snares found was an increase compared to the number found in 2020, when 43,270 were found and destroyed.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said snares are still a big threat to wildlife, both in Cambodia and in other countries in Asia. Across Asia, it is estimated that there are about 12 million snares installed in protected areas.

“We are working with all relevant institutions, especially the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Forestry Administration, to guard against illegal wildlife trading,” he said.

“We have to control the buying and selling of snares. They are very cheap, but can easily kill invaluable, irreplaceable wildlife. We will continue to educate people on the effects of these traps on wildlife.

“It is reported that a lot of snares are being installed in protected nature reserves areas in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia,” Pheaktra said, adding that snares can be easily made with tools which can be bought in the markets at very low prices.

He placed a high value on the rangers, partner NGOs and relevant institutions who took part in removing snares and traps in protected areas.

“Our rangers not only patrol to prevent the destruction of natural resources and deforestation, they also search for snares and remove them to save wildlife,” he said.

Some wildlife species that are found trapped in snares are released where they are found, while some are returned to the forests in different locations. The animals that are found to have suffered serious injuries are treated by veterinarians and released once they have recovered from their injuries, he added.

The use of homemade guns for hunting is another threat to wildlife. In 2021, rangers confiscated 758 weapons, a number similar to that confiscated in 2020.

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According to Pheaktra, some hunters also used dogs. Some people raised dogs in large packs in order to use them for hunting down animals. In addition to killing the wildlife, domestic dogs often spread disease amongst wild animals, he added.

He called on people to stop using snares or traps to catch wild animals. They should also step back from eating and trading in wild meat and abandon the outdated perception that eating it or using parts of wildlife will make them strong or defend them from diseases. On the contrary, it can pose a danger with new viruses and bacteria, he said.

Environmental activist Kreung Tola, who is also a coordinator for the Indigenous People Network in Mondulkiri province, said there are now many operations that farm exotic animal species. Theses farms pose challenges for environment officials who are attempting to catch poachers because traders will often argue that wild meat they are selling was purchased from a farm.

“When we see people selling the meat of a wild species, we ask them where they got the meat from. They usually say that it was purchased from a farm. There are farms which raise wild pigs, roe deers, monkeys and even porcupines, among others. When there are so many farms, it is hard to prove that animals were poached from a protected area,” Tola said.

He added that snares and traps were still being laid in the forest by the locals, although indigenous Vietnamese people also laid traps in Mondulkiri and other provinces bordering Vietnam.

Nong Deng, a community forest chief in Preah Vihear province’s Chheb district, said there were still many cases of people in his community laying snares to catch wild animals for their daily use.