Rangers Too Frightened to Arrest Poachers

sen monorom, Mondolkiri prov­ince – Suspects in a pair of elephant slayings in Mondolkiri province are unlikely to face prosecution because wildlife officials there say they are afraid they will be shot if they attempt to make an arrest.

Details of the cases, including eyewitness accounts of poachers hacking the tusks off of one elephant and emerging from the jungle with fresh blood on their clothes, will probably never be heard in a courtroom, said Im Chhoeurn, director of the environment department for Mondol­kiri province.

“If we try to catch him they will kill us. We know the name and the home village of the poacher, but the ranger who lives in the same village is afraid to ask him about it because he’s afraid he will be shot,” Im Chhoeurn said.

The beheaded and disemboweled body of a cow elephant was discovered by rangers in Mondol­kiri’s Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary two months ago, spark­­ing concern that poachers had moved to the province to escape increased patrols elsewhere in the country.

Reinforcing those fears was the discovery May 3 of the body of a rare “tusker” that had its tusks chopped off with an ax. Most of the remaining elephants in Cam­bodia do not have tusks.

Elephants have been killed at an alarming rate in Cambodia in recent years, with some 26 slayings documented between May 2000 and the end of 2001.

Bou Sovuth, bureau chief of for­estry for Mondolkiri province, said an employee of his heard shooting in the jungle two mon­ths ago and assembled a small team of soldiers to investigate. They saw a group of three poachers armed with AK-47s and a rocket launcher standing over the body of an elephant, he said.

Another forest ranger later saw the poachers emerge from the jungle with bloody clothes, he said.

Local wildlife officials say they want to find the poachers and make an arrest, but the suspects are missing from their homes, Im Chhoeurn said. In the case of the first killing, police invited the suspect to a court hearing but he skipped it and is now also missing, he said.


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