Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina advised the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) – an urban law enforcement group set up in 2001 in partnership with Wildlife Alliance Cambodia and tasked with combating illegal wildlife trade – to strengthen cooperation and devise strategic plans to prevent such crime more effectively.

Tina made the call as he met with the international conservation NGO’s executive director, Suwanna Gauntlett, at the ministry headquarters in Phnom Penh on April 18.

“Their work must be carried out in accordance with the Kingdom’s laws and Constitution in order to gain the support and respect of the general public. The rapid rescue team must have national interests in their minds at all times. Anyone who is raising animals must adhere to the same laws and restrictions, or they will face legal action,” he said.

Ministry spokeswoman Im Rachna confirmed to The Post on April 19 that the minister pushed for closer cooperation.

“He instructed the emergency wildlife rescue team to develop clear operation plans to ensure that their work is effective and efficient,” she said.

Rachna noted that the WRRT is made up of officials from Wildlife Alliance, the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and Forestry Administration (FA) under the agriculture ministry, as well as members of the armed forces. Its primary focus is responding immediately to wildlife crime, whether online or in person.

“If the rescue team seizes living animals, they will be treated, cared for and raised in facilities like the Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Centre, or returned to their natural habitat if possible. Deceased animals or parts of animals that are seized will be destroyed. Legal action will be taken against any perpetrators who are identified,” she said.

“In 2022, the team arrested 132 people involved in wildlife crime, two of them were charged with wildlife trafficking and referred to court,” she added.

The ministry noted in an April 19 social media post that from 2001 to 2016, it had provided funding of more than $34.5 million to wildlife protection projects, including the WRRT, Wildlife Care Programme, Southern Cardamom Forest Protection Programme and Mobile Environmental Education Project.