The Wildlife Conservation Society yesterday called on the government to take strong measures to prevent illegal wildlife trade, noting that traffickers are using Cambodia as a transit country to export wildlife products from African to Asian markets.
WCS and the Club of Cambodian Journalists yesterday held a workshop in Phnom Penh on the role of the media in responding to wildlife trafficking and to foster greater awareness among the public that wildlife trafficking is a serious crime which needs to be tackled.
Ken Sereyrotha, country director of WCS, said that according to research by the United Nations Environment Programme, illegal wildlife trade is a serious crime, involving billions of dollars and is related to money laundering.
“The income generated from wildlife trade is laundered and used to finance activities, including terrorism, which cause instability in some countries,” he said. “I think income received from illegal wildlife trade is laundered by buying land, property or other assets.”
“We are concerned that national security will be affected if there is no immediate action to curb illegal wildlife trade,” Mr Sereyrotha added.
He said that Cambodia is among countries traffickers use as a transit point to distribute wildlife parts and products from Africa to other Asian countries, noting that a huge haul of ivory was seized in Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.
“Cambodia isn’t designated as a place for trafficking of illegal wildlife but as transit country in order to supply markets in Asia,” Mr Sereyrotha noted.
He appealed to the government to take stronger measures to tackle the scourge, including stricter enforcement.
In 2014, Cambodia seized about three tonnes of ivory, including rhinoceros horns, which were discovered by Sihanoukville customs officials hidden in two containers storing beans.
Sarah Brook, technical advisor at WCS, yesterday said that as Asian wildlife species are declining in numbers, wildlife traffickers are sourcing parts from Africa and Latin America to supply the huge market in Asia.
“The country is stated as being a transition point for illegal shipment of ivory from Africa,” she said, noting that WCS is committed to disrupting wildlife trade and that government agencies must follow up its efforts by investigating cases which are uncovered and taking action against those responsible.
“We will succeed in our mission when criminals behind illegal wildlife trade have been brought to justice,” Ms Brook noted.
She added that there are other countries besides Cambodia which are being used as transit points for illegal wildlife trade.
“I think that over the past six years we have not seen any shipments of ivory coming through Cambodia because they are being sent straight to Vietnam or elsewhere after the government started stricter enforcement against traffickers,” Ms Brook said.
Neth Pheaktra, Environment Ministry spokesman, yesterday said that the government is committed to combating illegal wildlife trade and Cambodia as a UN member state is ready to cooperate internationally with all countries in the conservation of natural resources and preventing or combating illegal wildlife trafficking.
“Cambodia has been actively involved in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking, and it has collaborated with international partners in helping to prevent illegal wildlife trade,” he said.