Evidence that a deadly pesticide is being used to kill wildlife at watering holes in two provinces has raised fears of widespread poisoning that could jeopardize biodiversity and the health of rural communities, according to a new report.
Released to the public on Monday by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the report identifies five cases in which animals were fatally poisoned by carbofuran pesticide in Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces between January and August last year.
Carbofuran, a highly toxic pesticide used to kill insects, is strictly controlled in the U.S., E.U. and Canada. It is harmful to animals and can cause illness and even death if ingested by humans.
In Preah Vihear, government and WCS rangers took samples from three dead spotted civets, including two found in protected forest; a watering hole near where one of the civets was found; and a dead woolly-necked stork, according to the report. A sample was also taken from a dead slender-billed vulture—a critically endangered species—in Stung Treng province.
“This investigation revealed that Carbofuran, an extremely toxic carbamate, was the cause of the observed wildlife mortality and likely for the human and livestock morbidity,” the report says.
“These findings are significant as poisoning cases of wildlife, human, and livestock in Cambodia, while likely frequent, are rarely confirmed and documented.”
Alistair Mould, a technical adviser at the WCS, said meat consumption and the trade in wild animals were potential motivations behind the apparent attempts to poison the animals and their habitat. He said the pesticide posed serious health risks to members of rural communities that might drink from poisoned watering holes.
Leang Seng, director of the provincial department of agriculture, said his officials had distributed flyers and held meetings to raise awareness about the health and environmental impacts of pesticides, but to no avail.
“The people who use pesticides, most of them did not attend the awareness-raising events,” he said.