Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trees, monkeys lost in Preah Vihear forest zone: official

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Community leaders say monkeys taken from forests around Peuk village are being sold in Vietnam and authorities are doing nothing.

ILLEGAL logging and poaching in Preah Vihear province's Chey Sen district has left a once-heavily forested, animal-filled area almost completely depleted of wildlife, local officials told the Post Sunday.

The head of the Peuk village community in Putrea commune, Chea Nan, said the forest and its formerly large monkey population had been nearly exhausted due to large- and small-scale illegal trafficking gangs.

"They have logged it so much that it is almost an empty piece of land," said Chea Nan. "There are not many monkeys left either, as most of them have been caught and sold."

They have logged it so much that it is almost an empty piece of land.

Chea Nan said illegal activity had been going on since December last year, although the situation had improved in April and May. He said the forests being targeted were Romkum, Srang, Tbal, Chrey and Long forests.

"I would estimate that around 30 monkeys are caught each month and sold. They have almost all disappeared, and the authorities have not intervened," he said.

Vietnam monkey market
The deputy chief of Peuk village, So Po, says the monkeys are being sold in Vietnam as they fetch a high price there - 100,000 to 400,000 riels (US$24.26 to $97.06) each.

"The forest has almost become an empty field. [People] have cut down the trees and then caught the monkeys to sell to the Vietnamese," So Po said.

Preah Vihear's provincial governor, Preap Tann, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Both Putrea's commune Chief Chum Keang and the police Chief Chan Dy told the Post on Sunday that they did not know the details of the issue. However, they acknowledged that heavy illegal logging and poaching had taken place in January and February, but declined to specify why it has been so bad this year.

Chan Dy blamed local villagers for logging the trees and catching the monkeys.

The chief of the Forestry Administration unit in Chey Sen district, Hak Sothy, said Sunday his officials were unable to enforce the forestry laws in the area as the forest is 30 kilometres from his office, which was too far away.

"It would not be safe to crack down there. I only have two personnel and we would need many to crack down," Hak Sothy said. "Also, there is dense forest along the road, and we would have to sleep and eat there."

The director general of the Forestry Administration unit, Ty Sokhun, said he knew nothing of the issue when contacted on Monday.

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