January 29, 2024
PHNOM PENH – Environmental ranger inspect a baby elephant which was killed by poachers in Koh Nhek district, Mondulkiri province, on January 26. Information Ministry
The Ministry of Environment has warned that zero tolerance will be applied to poachers, or the perpetrators of other wildlife crimes which take place in the Kingdom’s natural protected areas. The move followed last week’s discovery of a deceased elephant calf which was shot dead in Mondulkiri province.
“The ministry is now calling for legal enforcement in all cases. The previous culture of educating perpetrators and having them sign contracts guaranteeing an end to their actions is now over,” said a January 27 ministry statement, which expressed regret for the loss off the rare animal.
Chhao Bunthoeun, director of the Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment, said on January 28 that while the results of an autopsy have not been officially released, he could confirm that the baby elephant was killed by a bullet fired by hunters.
“We are still conducting our primary investigations, so I cannot post an official conclusion. But we are certain that the young animal was killed by a bullet,” he said.
Cheak Mengheag, Mondulkiri deputy provincial governor, said local authorities were playing an active role in investigating the crime.
“I have ordered all available forces to search for the perpetrator and bring them to justice,” he added.
He also shared his regret at the loss of the young elephant. He noted that while the authorities have not yet discovered any clue as to the identity of those responsible, the police and military police are hunting for them and collecting more evidence.
The environment ministry said the elephant calf – found on January 26 – was around seven months old, and weighed around 200kg. It was discovered near Chi Klab village, Sok San commune, in the province’s Koh Nhek district.
“We express our regret at the loss of this rare creature in one of our natural protected areas. We condemn the perpetrator for breaking our laws,” a ministry statement added, while calling on the authorities to bring the perpetrator to justice.
The ministry explained that it cooperates with all forces and the Anti-Corruption Unit to prevent natural resource crimes in all natural protected areas.
It is also working on reforestation, with the aim of restoring 60 per cent forest cover by 2050, in line with the seventh-mandate government’s Pentagonal Strategy.
Minister of Information Neth Pheaktra, formerly a leader of the environment ministry’s Zero Snaring Campaign, shared his sadness at the loss of the young animal.
“As a former head of the Zero Snaring campaign, I call on people to end illegal poaching. Cambodia currently has a wild elephant population of between 400 and 600. We should protect all of our wildlife,” he said.
WWF Cambodia country director Seng Teak also condemned the killing.
“I call on all local residents to report all wildlife and forest crime to the authorities. We must join together to protect our living national treasures for future generations,” he said.
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is classified as endangered, according to the IUCN Red List, with continued declines caused mainly by habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, and poaching. In Cambodia, the population is concentrated in the Cardamom Mountains in the south-western of the country, and in the eastern plains of Mondulkiri province.