Published: Tuesday 29 February 2000

Despite the restriction on sale of animal skins, the business flourishes in many Asian countries. Recently the skins of an endangered tiger, sun bear, crocodile and pangolin were found being dried along Phnom Penh's bustling street 178. It was yet another example of how blatant the lucrative illegal wildlife trade is in Cambodia. Dozens of phone calls to the government's Wildlife Protection Office or conservationists in protest did not yield any action against the poachers.

Wildlife traffickers are flourishing in Cambodia and they are able to skirt environmental laws because of the loopholes that exist in the legislations. "The law that exists isn't really good enough... It is a general problem," says Colin Poole of the Cambodia Wildlife Conservation Society, a non-governmental organisation.

The country's law makes it a crime to sell endangered species but not necessarily to possess them. This often makes it difficult to prove the intent to sell even if the traffickers are caught in the act, says Poole. "We need a law that will prohibit people from keeping wildlife," says Keo Oaliss, an officer in the Wildlife Protection Office. Now, environmental officials are drafting a new, stricter law, which will be forwarded to the country's council of ministers soon, said Oaliss.

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