Military police and forestry officials working with Wildlife Alliance seized more than 100 kg of bushmeat, along with live monitor lizards, pygmy slow lorises and elongated tortoises that were being sold openly in Stung Treng City market on Wednesday.
“We divided our forces to walk through the market,” said Theng Kunchai, a member of Wildlife Alliance’s rapid response and rescue team. “When we got close, the ladies buying meat and the sellers recognized our faces and ran.”
Three stalls were selling the meat in the market, he added, from which the team collected thick slabs of wild boar and muntjac deer meat, as well as the live animals.
“Pygmy loris—they use it for medicine,” said Mr. Kunchai, referring to a small nocturnal primate. “For healing after broken bones, for helping men or for ladies after they have given birth.”
The species is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The bushmeat seizure is the 10th in the city’s main market this year, said Mr. Kunchai, adding that last time, one of the meat sellers threw a knife at him as he fled. The province is widely seen as being the country’s biggest market for illegal meat.
“There are permanent sellers there, and it’s a hub for taxis,” he said.
The building of roads for dam projects has made the situation far easier for poachers, Mr. Kunchai added. “When there are roads, people can get into the forest.”
Siek Mekong, the chief of Srekor commune in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district, said wild animals were nearly gone in the heavily logged basin of what will become the reservoir for the Lower Sesan II dam.
“We’re nearly all out of wild animals here,” he said.
He didn’t blame the inhabitants of his commune, he said, though he knew some occasionally set traps in the forest.
“The people who have the power destroy it first,” he said. “The people from the area walk after them.”