A major haul of wild turtles and snakes was found abandoned on Saturday morning on the banks of a small river near a checkpoint along the border with Vietnam in Kandal province, according to customs officials.
Muong Dara, chief of the customs and excises bureau at Chrey Thom International Checkpoint, said 364 kg of turtles and 433 kg of snakes were found at about 1 a.m. along the Bak Nam river after a group of smugglers on a boat evaded the bureau’s capture.
“We have a network of members who are undercover agents, and they informed us about the case,” he said, adding that he did not know how many animals made up the haul or what species they were.
“They were transporting the turtles and snakes by motorboat in an attempt to export them to Vietnam, but they knew that we were coming on our speedboat to take them down, and they drove away,” Mr. Dara said.
“But before they escaped, they tried to hide the turtles and snakes on the small river’s bank. We found [the animals], but we were not able to follow and arrest [the smugglers].”
Retrieving the turtles and snakes from the riverbank was a very difficult job, he said, adding that the reptiles were handed over to environmental group Wildlife Alliance.
An official at the NGO who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the turtles and snakes were transported to Phnom Penh’s Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center on Saturday evening.
The official said the turtles and snakes found near the river were most likely taken from Battambang and Pursat provinces and would be released in Koh Kong province “very soon.”
“We will release them very soon in Koh Kong because they are mostly taken from mountains, and that is the only province in which we have wildlife protection areas,” he said.