A zero snaring campaign has been launched in Cambodia’s protected areas in a bid to save wildlife from the clutches of poachers.
On Thursday, a coalition of government ministries and international conservation organizations launched the campaign to eradicate all types of snaring.
Cambodia’s wildlife is at high risk due to poaching and snaring fueled by the consumption and illegal trade of wildlife. If immediate steps are not taken, Cambodia risks losing its globally irreplaceable wildlife in the future, the coalition said.
In 2021, 61,611 snares were removed from 72 protected areas and biodiversity corridors across Cambodia. On average, more than 40,000 snares are removed annually from protected areas, according to the coalition.
It added that from tortoises and elephants to monkeys and birds, snares kill indiscriminately. In addition, wildlife languishes for days before dying from their injuries, lack of water, or starvation.
“Snares are a major contributor towards the functional extinction of tiger in Cambodia and the rapid decline of the Indochinese leopard. Cambodia’s guar, banteng, Sambar deer, and other ungulates are threatened with local extinction due to snaring. Critically-endangered vulture and Giant Ibis are also the victim of snaring and poisoning,” the coalition said in a joint statement.
They added that snares not only empty forests of wildlife, they also increase the risk transmission of zoonotic diseases from wildlife to humans. Those who set the snares, sell and consume wild meat are all at risk.
They said the campaign launch represents a unique opportunity for key government actors to examine ways to counter this devastating threat to Cambodia’s wildlife and public health, and bring an end to snaring in protected areas.
Following the campaign launch in Phnom Penh, provincial level rallies will be held to ensure the public is aware of the threats posed by snaring, effective law enforcement is carried out in protected areas, demand for wild meat is reduced, and provincial law enforcement agencies work together to combat illegal snaring and illegal wildlife trade.
The coalition said it expects the campaign effort will lead to reviewing and amending relevant laws concerning penalty on the possession of snares and dogs in protected areas, establishing a multi-agency law enforcement unit in charge of anti-wildlife crime at the provincial level, and adopting preventive measures issued by the World Health Organization in April 2021 regarding public health risks associated with the sale of live wild animals for food and bushmeat consumption.
“Today we made a commitment to fight for the future of Cambodia’s people and wildlife,” said Nob Sothunvisoth, Director of the Department of Research and Training at the Ministry of Justice. “Snares and the wildlife trade pose a grave threat to all of our health, be it environmental, physical or financial. The coming together of all of the relevant ministries demonstrates our collective resolve to combat biodiversity loss and prevent possible future pandemics at the source of the problem.”
Yi Sengdoeurn, Deputy Director of Communicable Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said OneHealth has now become more important in recent years.
He said that the OneHealth approach improves health outcomes by understanding and addressing the interactions between people, animals and the environment. Implementing OneHealth measures is important for protecting public health from future zoonotic risks, he added.
“We must work together to prevent the purchase, sale, transport and consumption of wildlife species which are of high risk for zoonotic disease transmission,” said Yi Sengdoeurn.
Jeremy Parker, Director of Operations, Asia Pacific at Fauna & Flora International (FFI), said simply removing snares is no longer enough. In addition, it is essential national and provincial law enforcement is improved and cooperation strengthened to effectively deter snaring, all while reducing demand for wild meat that drives this pernicious behavior.
“Now more than ever, we need to let public people know about the negative impact of eating bushmeat on their health, reaffirm our commitment to strengthen efforts to end the snaring crisis and combat the illegal trade in wildlife for the benefit of people and nature, both current and future generations,” said Bou Vorsak, CEO of NatureLife (BirdLife in Cambodia).