The Wildlife Conservation Society has said it is committed to continue working with the authorities and other partners to protect Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary after three conservationists, including one WCS staff member were killed last month.
Tern Soknai, a forest ranger with the Environment Ministry, Sek Vanthana, a military police officer, and Thol Kna, a WCS official, were killed on January 30 while patrolling the sanctuary in Mondulkiri province.
They were shot and killed while returning from the O’huoc border area after locating an illegal logging camp and confiscating chainsaws.
A WCS statement issued yesterday said the organisation was encouraged by the government’s actions in pursuit of justice, while it was committed to continue working with authorities and other partners to protect the sanctuary.
“We will not be deterred in our support of our Cambodian partners who are courageously working to safeguard our country’s wildlife in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Ken Serey Rotha, country programme director of WCS Cambodia.
He said their work in the sanctuary was not easy because loggers, land-grabbers and poachers ruthlessly targeted the nation’s natural resources.
Southeast Asia is plagued by criminals illegally logging and Keo Seima has been one of the targets for the illegal trade in luxury wood, the statement said.
“With the continued implementation of the SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) patrol system and with the support from REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) partners we all remain committed to the successful management and protection of Keo Seima,” Mr Serey Rotha added.
“In honour of our murdered rangers and all the defenders of the forest, the ranger patrols in Keo Seima continue.”
Six people involved in the shooting have been arrested and are now in pretrial detention. Three were charged with premeditated murder and the other three were charged with forestry crimes.
Last year, community patrols led by Environment Ministry officials and members of local communities in Mondulkiri province confiscated 513 snares and 86 chainsaws while arresting seven people and warning 57 others over illegal activities.