A wildlife ranger with a Cambodian conservation group was killed by unidentified gunmen who ambushed his forest camp in the lower Cardamom mountains last week, according to the NGO’s director.
Chut Wutty, director of the Natural Resource Protection Group NGO, said that Pin Vorn, 33, was shot dead on Sept 6 in the remote mountains of Koh Kong province’s Thma Bang district after he and his four-member patrol team—none of whom were reported injured during the ambush—bedded down for the night.
Mystery shrouds the details of the fatal shooting, but Chut Wutty said that the slain man’s patrol team was focusing on preventing poaching in the southern Cardamoms by collecting nylon and steel snares, a method of hunting which traps animals indiscriminately.
He said the patrol teams of the NGO, which was founded about two years ago, have hampered the wildlife trade in the lower Cardamoms, but that they have faced increasing “pressure” from hunters over the last year.
Officials from other wildlife NGOs, who have maintained that poachers are sometimes security officials who moonlight in the woods, expressed shock about the reported details of the 33-year-old’s death.
“If this happened in the course of a normal conservation effort, it is very worrying,” said Delphine Vann Roe, deputy country director of US-based WildAid, which has been working in Cambodia for five years. “It would be a very dramatic incident for the conservation effort.”
Vann Roe, whose agency trains rangers affiliated with the government in arrest procedure, armed patrol, and law-enforcement tactics, said that WildAid officers and gendarmes patrolling remote areas have never suffered a casualty, or even a wounding.
But, she stressed, “the work is very dangerous. When law enforcement officers go to track down a sawmill, for instance, some have experienced short exchanges of gunfire with [illegal loggers]. Self-defense is part of the regular training.”
Jake Brunner, regional director for Conservation International, which Chut Wutty was part of when the NGO was founded three years ago, said that conservationists have received threats before but that a shooting was “rare.”
“Naturally, we’re very concerned,” said Brunner, whose NGO works with about 20 government rangers on poaching patrols.
Chut Wutty said that the Natural Resource Protection Group alerted provincial authorities about the death of Pin Vorn, who was cremated in the remote forest where he was killed, and that they are working with police to apprehend the gunmen.