Friday, September 02, 2005

Infamous tiger hunter given 7 years in jail in Cambodia

(Kyodo) _ An infamous tiger hunter in Cambodia, who had been on a conservationist group's list of most-wanted hunters since 2001, has been convicted of poaching and given seven years in jail, the group said Friday.

According to a statement released by WildAid, a U.S.-based environmental group, a court in the southwestern province of Koh Kong handed the sentence down Wednesday to Yor Ngun, 57, for his illegal hunting of endangered animals.

Yor Ngun, regarded as a skillful hunter, had been on the group's most-wanted list since he was first identified and interviewed by conservationists in the northern province of Preah Vihear in 2001.

According to the statement, he was first arrested by the Forestry Administration in September 2004, but was released after signing a document in which he pledged not to become a repeat offender.

On March 29, 2005, he was rearrested by the Forestry Administration in Koh Kong for transporting 25 bear jaws and 82 bear nails.

The provincial court's verdict concluded that Yor Ngun had killed "many endangered species" and gave the prison sentence based on Article 97 of Cambodia's Forestry Law.

Yor Ngun is known to have tracked and killed 19 tigers, 40 leopards, 30 elephants, 40 Malayan sun bears and three Asiatic bears, and 500 gaur, banteng and sambar in over 10 provinces, WildAid's statement said.

A government official told Kyodo News on Friday that the offender claimed during a court hearing Wednesday that he was poor and therefore had to hunt to earn his living.

"He actually was not poor because when he was arrested, he had $500 in his pocket," said Sun Hean, chief of international operations for the Agriculture Ministry and an adviser to WildAid.

He said the offender "moved very fast to different parts of the country for hunting animals...He was all over the potential places where animals live."

Suwanna Gauntlett, WildAid's country director for Cambodia, welcomed the successful prosecution.

"It is very important step forward for wildlife law enforcement which shows that the Forestry Administration is increasing its capacity to investigate and prosecute forest crimes," she said.

She said that since 2001, the Wilderness Protection Mobile Unit, a joint venture between the Forestry Administration and WildAid, has discovered 700 illegal hunters or traders and has rescued 28,000 live animals.

In 2000, the number of tigers in Cambodia was estimated at about 700 nationwide, but now there remain only some 200 to 300, Sun Hean said.

Tigers are hunted mainly for buyers in China and Thailand. In China, they are especially in demand for traditional medicines and gourmet dishes, while in Thailand their pelts are in demand for decorative purposes.


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