The endangered gaur, or Indian bison is a rare species in Cambodia that are hiding deeper in the hills of Aural district, Kampong Speu province, and partly in Koh Kong province. These majestic beasts, and the largest of all bovines are being hunted to near extinction. They are killed for meat and horns, and if strict measures are not taken to protect them, they will disappear from the country in the near future.
According to sources, poachers are targeting the high value horns, which can fetch prices ranging from $200 to tens of thousands of dollars.
According to the residents of Cheam Changke commune, Phnom Sruoch district, Kompong Speu province, nowadays they rarely encounter the animals.
Even though the area is preserved, the poachers do not even want the meat, but only take the horns for sale. Many locals who are unemployed out of farming seasons go out into the forest to hunt wild boar and other animals to eat.
A villager named Kun in Prey Koke commune, said that he and his fellow villagers often went to the forest, and, in the past, there was always a healthy population of animals. But in recent years, wildlife numbers are very poor and he is no longer able to survive. All he could now catch were only a few snakes, turtles, and small animals. Big animals aren’t seen anymore.
He claims that a big horn can be sold in the jungle from $ 200 to $ 400, and traders continue to sell them on for $ 500 to $ 2,000.
For those who buy them, it is a sign of wealth and are a status symbol for the very rich to display in their houses.
A local resident of Phnom Sruoch, involved in wildlife protection said that it was not easy to kill such a big strong animal, and sometimes takes days for a wounded animal to die while being tracked. Afterwards the risk to the poachers means they do not take the meat, but only the horns which can be transported and sold without difficulty.
“The killer, his biggest wish is nothing more but to take the horns,” he added, noting that the price of horns is now higher than ever. The hunters do not care, even if it was protected or conserved.
Pieces of and whole horns are traded locally in Kampong Speu or Phnom Penh and abroad.