Officials To Attend Int’l Wildlife Conference

With promised legislation in lim­bo and suspicions swirling around a private zoo in Koh Kong province, Ministry of Agriculture officials said they will head to an in­ternational conference on en­dangered species Friday, stressing gains made against poachers and the illegal wildlife trade.

Cambodia has made strides in recent years to choke a wildlife trade that funnels exotic species for medicine and pets to China, said Chheang Dany, deputy di­rec­tor of the ministry’s wildlife pro­­tection office.

Their efforts have been aided by NGOs working to curb animal trafficking, he said.

With their help, the government had hoped to adopt a law on endangered species before the end of June, but the past political deadlock, and wrangling over its contents, have slowed its passing.

Cambodia is required to adopt the law as a signatory of the Con­vention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the subject of a meeting of more than 160 member countries in Bangkok over the next two weeks.

Without legislation, private zoos like Koh Kong Safari World, an animal theme park owned by casino magnate Ly Young Phat, operate in legal gray areas that have alarmed conservationists.

None of Safari World’s stock of orangutans, tigers, sea lions and oth­er exotic animals bear a CITES permit for import, as re­quired by the convention, said Suon Phalla, a CITES officer with the Agriculture Ministry.

In the past, Safari World has barred ministry officials from taking inventory of its animals, which include an unknown number of Irrawaddy dolphins.

A Bangkok zoo, also called Sa­fari World, was accused in Au­gust of smuggling at least 115 orang­utans from Indonesia, prompting the conservationist NGO ProFauna Indonesia to raise concerns over similar facilities in Cambodia.

Another private zoo planned for Poipet’s casino strip is under consideration, ministry officials said.

Joe Walston, country director of Wildlife Conservation Society, said that while the government had improved enforcement of the  wild­life trade, private zoos at times “seem to operate outside the law.”


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