Camera Trap Captures Rare Footage of Elephant Herd in the Southern Cardamom Mountains

For the first time ever, a herd of wild elephants were caught on camera in the Southern Cardamoms of Cambodia. While elephant sightings by locals have been on the rise since 2012, this is the first time elephants have been caught on camera in this part of the country. The discovery of this herd is important confirmation that Wildlife Alliance’s efforts to protect vital wildlife habitat is helping elephant populations recover. 

There are less than 35,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild, and only an estimated 200 elephants in Cambodia. Between 2001 and 2002, 37 elephants were reported killed in the Southern Cardamoms preceding the implementation of Wildlife Alliance’s forest protection program. Since 2006, there have been zero deaths reported. Wildlife Alliance, in partnership with the Royal Government of Cambodia, operates six forest ranger stations whose mandate is to safeguard 1.7 million acres of tropical rainforest. The Southern Cardamoms are part of a mosaic of Protected Areas and Protected Forests that form Cambodia’s largest intact forest and one of Asia’s last remaining elephant corridors. Wildlife Alliance’s constant monitoring, repeated awareness campaigns, and strict enforcement of wildlife laws has curbed forest crime in the Southern Cardamoms and given elephant populations an opportunity to rebound. As increasing pressure is being placed on the remaining elephant habitat, and human-elephant conflict is expected to rise, it is important for Wildlife Alliance to continue its comprehensive conservation plan to ensure that this globally significant species is protected. 

Help our rangers continue to protect this very special herd of elephants by making a gift towards elephant habitat protection today!

At a Crossroads

In the last three years, the world has faced crisis levels of wildlife poaching and trafficking. Stories of poachers armed with automatic weapons carrying out coordinated attacks on herds of elephants make headlines every other week. Rhino horns estimated to be worth $100,000-300,000 led to the death of thousands of rhinos in South Africa in the past few years, a dramatic increase since the thirteen deaths in 2007. The increasingly sophisticated and large-scale nature of the attacks indicated that wildlife trafficking had escalated from a conservation issue to a worldwide criminal enterprise that was connected to terrorism. Driven by the sharp rise in demand for rare wildlife products in countries like China and Vietnam, the wildlife trade is estimated to be worth $19 billion. It is the fourth largest worldwide criminal trade, lagging behind only drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

It is clear that we are at a crossroads where we must choose between taking apart the illegal wildlife network, or letting the last few species of mega-fauna slip into extinction. Wildlife Alliance believes, now more than ever, that direct action is required to hinder wildlife crime. Since 2001, we have rescued more than 61,000 animals from poachers and illegal wildlife traders, and have dramatically driven down the buying and selling of wildlife in Cambodia. It is critical for us to make 2015 a year of increased cross-border communication and cooperation. Wildlife trafficking is not just a regional problem – but a global issue with ramifications of massive proportions. Wildlife Alliance has proven that its approach to cracking down on this illegal trade is effective and in 2015 we hope to share these successes with our neighbors and counterparts in a coordinated effort to end wildlife poaching and trafficking once and for all.

Join the fight, make a gift towards our wildlife rescue unit, and help stop the senseless slaughter.

3 Tons of Ivory Seized in Record Bust

On May 9, 2014 Cambodian authorities confiscated 3 tons (6,000 lbs) of ivory entering the country through Sihanoukville Port. Customs officials found 108 bags of the illegal product hidden among beans in a large shipping container from Malaysia. Believed to be from South Africa, this is the largest amount of ivory ever seized in Cambodia. This is also the third major ivory seizure in Cambodia in 2014. It has become evident that ivory traders are targeting the country as a new transit route to China and Vietnam.

This bust comes only a week after the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) held its first training session with customs officials at Sihanoukville. The WRRT has been conducting training sessions with customs and border officials to help better identify illegal animal products and wildlife trafficking methods. Serving as Cambodia’s national task force for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), the WRRT is also cooperating with member countries to coordinate efforts to help detect ivory trade networks operating within Cambodia.

We would like to congratulate the Cambodia Customs Department for cracking down on the illicit trade. At a time when elephant populations across the globe are falling, this kind of commitment is crucial. Wildlife Alliance will continue its cooperation with the Customs Department in the framework of ASEAN-WEN in the months to come. We are looking forward to our next training with the Customs officers at Sihanoukville Port on May 20, 2014.

Cambodia – The Ivory Trade’s New Transit Country

In April, Cambodian authorities intercepted 250 kg (551 lbs) of ivory headed towards Vietnam. According to local newspapers, the officers stopped the van only a few kilometers from the border because it seemed to be struggling under the weight of its cargo. When they searched the van, 10 hidden suitcases containing 77 pieces of ivory were discovered. This major bust comes only one month after 80 kg (176 lbs) of ivory was seized at Siem Reap International Airport. Airport officials confiscated three bags from two Vietnamese nationals flying from Angola via South Korea into Cambodia. The two suspects were stopped while lugging two heavy suitcases past customs officers. The ivory was seized and the two smugglers were arrested on charges of illegal ivory smuggling. It is clear that Cambodia is increasingly being targeted as a new trade route into Vietnam and China, where ivory is estimated to be worth over $2,000 per kilogram on the black market.

The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT), which is already focusing much of its efforts on trans-boundary trafficking, will be stepping up its activities this year. Both incidents indicate that the WRRT’s outreach and awareness programs are proving effective. Last year, the WRRT teamed up with the Kouprey Express Mobile Environmental Education Unit to conduct wildlife trafficking training sessions at the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh International Airports. Outreach efforts have also been directed at border officials operating in stations at both the Thai and Vietnamese land boundaries. Next month, the team will conduct training sessions at Cambodia’s largest port in Sihanoukville. These training sessions help border and customs officials properly identify illegal wildlife as well as recognize trafficking methods used by smugglers.

As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and Cambodia’s national task force, the WRRT is also cooperating with member countries to coordinate efforts and identify ivory trade networks operating within Cambodia. With elephant populations plummeting, the specialized operations that the WRRT conducts are essential to dismantling the international ivory trade.

The WRRT is a Forestry Administration law enforcement unit led by the Forestry Administration, in cooperation with the Military Police, with technical and financial support from Wildlife Alliance.