Wildlife Alliance Cambodia on December 27 announced that their Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) had rescued 199 turtles and tortoises in 2022.

“Almost all of them were released into suitable habitats or added to breeding programmes to help species recovery by Fisheries Administration officials within the WRRT,” it said, in a social media post.

This NGO called for all members of the public who see wildlife for sale – or being kept as pets – to contact the Wildlife Crime Hotline, or notify them via their social media channels.

“Thank you in advance for helping to protect Cambodia’s wildlife,” it added.

Alliance communications officer Claire Baker-Munton told The Post on January 1 that the turtles were rescued from many provinces, including Kandal, Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, and Kampong Thom.

“The turtles were rescued by the WRRT through confiscations from restaurants and vendors. Some animals were handed in by members of the public.

“WRRT is proud of these results. Each one of these turtles has been given a second chance to live in their natural habitat,” she said.

Munton said the team will continue to investigate and carry out rescue operations wherever it discovers wildlife in danger.

“The Kingdom’s only mobile environment education team, our ‘Kouprey Express’ will continue to raise awareness about climate change, the laws on protected areas and species, the importance of protecting wildlife and also the health risks of consuming wildlife,” she added.

The NGO gave three reasons not to consume turtles. First, it is illegal under Fisheries Administration law. Second, globally, turtle numbers are low, and Cambodia has important populations that need to be protected to ensure their survival. Third, turtles can pose risks to people’s health.

During last October’s zero snaring campaign, 32 restaurants in Mondulkiri joined forces and committed to ending the trade in bush meat. Each of them also displayed posters which spread awareness about the pandemic risks of consuming wild meat.

“Restaurants and food outlets nationwide must take bush meat off their menus and say no to its trade. They must participate in conserving wildlife, preventing zoonotic spillover from happening in the future and putting nature on the path to recovery for sustainable development. Together, we will protect ourselves, our families, our communities and our future,” said the Ministry of Environment.