Ministry of Environment secretary of state Neth Pheaktra noted that the introduction of the second phase of the ministry’s zero-snaring campaign was proceeding well, and illustrated the support of the ministry’s partner organisations to create joint efforts to ensure the safety of wildlife, as well as the tourists who visit the Kingdom’s protected areas.

The zero-snaring campaign for Kampong Speu, part of Cardamom Mountains, began on May 9, and aimed to completely eliminate trapping in protected areas, providing safety to wildlife.

Pheaktra said it was not known how many traps were set in the forest each year, but estimated that just 20 per cent were discovered by environmental officials.

He said the Cardamom Mountains span Kampong Speu, Pursat and Koh Kong provinces. The Cardamoms are the protected area where the largest number of traps has been discovered.

“The traps that are set there are having a serious affect on biodiversity, especially among land-dwelling mammals. These traps kill wild animals every day. Our park rangers, along with community members and partner organisations, have worked together to release hundreds of thousands of traps in the Cardamom Mountains,” he said.

He explained that the ministry had selected Kampong Speu because it is rich in wildlife, and that like in several other protected areas, bush meat was still sold in restaurants and markets in the province.

“Through this campaign, we intend to change the attitude of the public and convince those who used to earn their livings trapping wild animals to cease such activities,” he said.

He added that the second part of the campaign will focus on educating those people who believe bush meat has medicinal qualities so that they understand that on the contrary, bush meat could pose a risk to their lives and the lives of those around them.

“Bush meat could contain any number of unknown diseases or viruses,” he warned.

He said that as a result of phase one of the campaign, more than 70 restaurants in Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng, Kratie, Preah Vihear, Pursat and Kampong Thom provinces have vowed not to sell food made from wild animals. Seven restaurants in Kampong Speu have already announced that they will not trade in bush meet.

Kampong Speu provincial environment department director Om Mak Theary said the province has 79 park rangers who patrol protected areas in three districts: Thpong, Oral and Phnom Sruoch. In 2022, the rangers destroyed 800 traps, confiscated 36 chainsaws and sent 15 cases to court.

World Wide Fund for Nature country director Seng Teak said that for phase two of the zero-snaring campaign, the ministry and its partners have introduced a QR Code to encourage the public to commit to not eating bush meat.

“The QR code was launched three months ago, and during this time more than 4,000 participants have committed to not eating wild animals,” he added.

“On this occasion, I call on all of you not to touch wildlife. We should keep wildlife alive in the wild in peace for the sake of tourism in our country,” he concluded.