Police, military police and commune officials confiscated nearly 50 animals worth several thousand dollars from a house in Stung Treng province on Aug 23, officials said.
The live animals rescued in Stung Treng district and turned over to the NGO Wildlife Alliance included nine monitor lizards, 12 turtles, six elongated tortoises, six cobras, 10 long-tailed macaques, a pangolin and two baby myna birds, according to deputy Stung Treng commune chief Ten Than. Some animal parts were also found in the house, he said, adding that the house was allegedly owned by a woman named Keo Touch.
Deputy provincial police chief Ek Sivandorn said Friday that Keo Touch—who reportedly escaped by car during the raid—was suspected of buying the animals from local hunters to sell on the black market.
“Her business is just to sell and buy the animals,” Ek Sivandorn said, adding that military police arrested two other suspects, though he did not know their names.
Wildlife Alliance supervisor Koy Visedh said that when officials surrounded the house, the suspects began releasing the animals.
“This is a new strategy for traders,” he said, adding that it has the potential to foul up future court proceedings since it destroys evidence of the animals’ illegal captivity.
Officials, however, were able to recover the majority of the animals, Koy Visedh said, adding that he believes only one macaque got away.
Nick Marx, a Wildlife Alliance adviser, said Monday that some of the animals were released into their natural habitats, while a few baby macaques unable to care for themselves were taken to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center.
According to Marx, it is illegal wildlife traders rather than subsistence hunters who are doing the most damage to Cambodia’s wildlife.
“It is this trade that is driving many species to the brink of extinction,” he said, adding that there are thriving markets in Vietnam and China for the animals to be sold as food products and traditional medicines.