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Source:  Wildlife Alliance Press Release
Date: April 30, 2008

For Immediate Release

Successful turtle and python rescue along the Cambodia-Thai border

April 30, 2008

The Forestry Administration?s ?Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team? (WRRT) rescued hundreds of live turtles and pythons from reptile smugglers during an operation in Battambang Province, near the border with Thailand.
The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team mobile unit, made up of Forestry Administration Officers, Royal Gendarmes, and support from the international NGO Wildlife Alliance, received information that widespread cross-border wildlife trafficking was occurring in Poipet on the Thai border.

Acting on this information, the unit intercepted a pickup truck crossing from Thailand to Poipet in Battambang town at 7:25 AM and rescued 68 Asian Box Turtles, 7 Black Marsh Turtles, 175 Malayan Snail-eating Turtles, 12 Yellow Headed Temple Turtles (endangered species), 2 Red Eared Slider Turtles (a species not native to South East Asia), 11 Reticulated Pythons and 13 Burmese Pythons. The vast shipment of live wildlife weighed more than 418.5 kg (922 pounds).

Yellow Headed Temple Turtles are of particular cultural significance in Cambodian folklore and legends. In stone carvings on the walls of Angkorian temples, they are depicted as divine creatures of royalty. However, in contemporary Cambodia, habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade are devastating the populations of these animals.

During the operation, a new Chevrolet pick-up truck with military license plates was confiscated. Mr. Hong Try (age 32), a lieutenant from one of the border protection battalions in the area, is being questioned in connection with the transport of wildlife.

Initial information suggests that the rescued animals had been illegally collected in Pursat, Battambang, and Banteay Meanchey Provinces, and had been moved to a large-scale holding facility in Thailand before eventually being shipped to Vietnam through Cambodia. These animals (except the non-native Red Eared Sliders) will be released in suitable habitats by the Forestry Administration.

The release of these species back to the wild, especially the endangered Yellow Headed Temple Turtle, is of significant conservation importance and will assist in maintaining their already fragile populations in Cambodia.

In collaboration with Wildlife Alliance, the Forestry Administration and other government agencies are making significant impacts on a multi-million dollar illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia as various trade routes and wildlife stockpile locations have been exposed.