A 3-year-old patient at the Pasteur Institute shows her dog bite. Hong Menea
Despite killing some 800 people in the Kingdom each year, rabies has been largely off the public health radar. Plans are in the works for a nationwide response, but can funding catch up?
BY ALESSANDRO MARAZZI SASSOON AND SONEN SOTH THE PHNOM PENH POST, FRIDAY, 11 AUGUST 2017
When her 15-year-old daughter Thai Sopheak was bitten by a dog last month, Kat Soklim took no chances. She had known a man from a nearby village who died following a dog bite the year before, and she wasn’t going to let her daughter suffer the same fate.
Sopheak is one of the lucky ones; for the past month, she has been leaving her village in Kampong Cham’s Prey Chhor district every few days at 6 in the morning to head to Phnom Penh. Her destination is the Pasteur Institute’s vaccination centre, where she can get postexposure rabies treatment against the otherwise incurable virus.
Rabies, which is known as chkae chkuot or “mad dog” disease in Khmer, has a 100 percent fatality rate if a patient isn’t vaccinated before the disease takes hold, and it is estimated to kill as many as 800 people – disproportionately children – each year in the Kingdom. Nonetheless, there is currently no national programme to address the disease, and a lack of resources persists when it comes to vaccinating both people and animals.
“It’s years late,” Dr Ly Sowath, who is in charge of the rabies vaccination centre at the Pasteur Institute, said of a nationwide rabies strategy.
Patients wait for shots at the Pasteur clinic, which sees 60 visitors per day. Hong Menea
“The progress is rather slow in putting together a national programme compared to programs for dengue or malaria or tuberculosis.”
In part because of this, access to the vaccine – which if administered in time is completely safe and effective – is extremely limited. People are often forced to take hours-long journeys to the only trusted vaccination centres, which are in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap – a precaution they will only take if they are aware of the disease and can afford the travel.
From the day her bitten neighbour died, Soklim said, “people in the villages knew about it by word of mouth”.
“So whenever there is a dog-biting case, we hurry to the hospital,” she continued, adding that while she was offered a vaccination at her local district health centre, she did not trust it, nor did she want to pay for it. At the Pasteur Institute, vaccinations are heavily subsidised. (more…)
The Bengal florican, a critically endangered species, faces the threat of extinction due to commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplains. MATTHEW KWAN/WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY
Phak Seangly and Jovina Chua The Phnom Penh Post, Fri, 9 June 2017
The increase in commercial dry-season rice cultivation in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap floodplain is threatening the survival of the critically endangered Bengal florican, a new study suggests.
Conducted by researchers from the Imperial College of London, the University of Oxford and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the study, which was published in the international journal of conservation Oryx on May 29, surveyed 616 households in 21 villages on their livelihood activities at the Tonle Sap Floodplain Protected Landscape in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.
Results showed a sharp increase in the number of farmers who have adopted dry-season rice cultivation since 2005. Among these farmers, almost half grew more than one crop per year.
According to the study, not only does the rice cultivation encroach on breeding areas, agro-chemical use affects the species’ food source.
As opposed to cultivating just one crop per year, which “doesn’t overlap much with the florican breeding season”, the cultivation of two crops annually “means that the fields are flooded throughout the time when the floricans are trying to breed”, WCS’s Senior Technical Advisor Simon Mahood explained in an email yesterday.
He said that the increase in dry-season rice adoption could be attributed to its profitability and reliability.“Irrigation infrastructure has been improved and farming methods have been mechanised, so they are able to grow two crops instead of one,” he added.
With less than 800 of these rare birds left globally, Cambodia is the home of more than half, and is therefore “the most important country worldwide for Bengal florican conservation”, according to the WCS. (more…)
New hatchlings of Cambodia’s national reptile, the royal turtle, were taken to the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre yesterday. WCS
Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Yesenia Amaro The Phnom Penh Post, Thu, 11 May 2017
After spending the last three months under the watchful eye of their own personal retinue of bodyguards, nine endangered royal turtles successfully broke free from their shells on Tuesday and were transferred to the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre, where they will be raised.
The nest of the critically endangered Batagur affinis turtle was discovered in February by a villager along the Kaong River in Koh Kong, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said yesterday. The Fisheries Administration and the WCS built a fence to protect the eggs and hired four villagers to guard the nest in Sre Ambel district’s Preah Ang Keo village until the eggs hatched, said Eng Mengey, WCS’s communications officer.
“There are only a few royal turtles left in the wild,” Mengey said. The royal turtle is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which tracks threatened species. Five other eggs in the nest did not hatch.
The turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000, when a small population was discovered by the Fisheries Administration and WCS in the Sre Ambel River system, Mengey said.
There are now 216 royal turtles living at the Koh Kong centre, and another 27 at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, Mengey said.
Fisheries Administration official Ouk Vibol said some 20 young royal turtles will be released into the wild in June or July.
Eleven wild elephants, including a baby, were rescued from a mud-filled bomb crater in Mondulkiri province on Saturday after languishing in the swampy waters for four days. Keo Sopheak/Mondulkiri Province Environmental Office/AFP
Mech Dara, The Phnom Penh Post Mon, 27 March 2017
Eleven wild elephants were rescued on Saturday in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima protected area after becoming trapped in a former bomb crater without food for four days, though rangers will continue to monitor the herd to ensure it reaccepts one juvenile who was handled by humans during the rescue.
Olly Griffin, a technical advisor with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said the operation was a “big team effort” between civil society groups, government authorities and local villagers.
“A large part of the credit goes to the local people from the area, who showed concern and compassion for the plight of the elephants,” Griffin said yesterday.
The 3-metre-deep bomb crater had been repurposed as a water storage pond, and Griffin said the elephants may have been seeking water when they became trapped.
People gather around a mud-filled crater in the Keo Seima protected area in which 11 wild elephants became trapped five days ago. AKP
A wild elephant lies dead after being electrocuted after running into a utility pole yesterday in Preah Sihanouk province, triggering a blackout in the area. Photo supplied
Niem Chheng, The Phnom Penh Post Thu, 23 March 2017
A wild elephant was electrocuted when it leaned against a power pole yesterday in Preah Sihanouk, triggering a black out in the area.
The male pachyderm, one of only five believed left in an area taken over by farming, died with burns to its feet, thigh and head in the village of Stung Chral in Kampong Seila’s O’Bakrotes commune.
“It leaned its body against the electricity pole . . . causing the pole to fall,” said Kong Kimsreng, director of Natural Protected Area in the southern part of the Tonle Sap lake.
“It might have been angry because the area was a jungle in the past, but later the people transformed the area into farms.”
The carcass will be transported to and buried at Tamao Mountain. It was possible the bones be used for study or an exhibition, he said.
“We will arrange a ritual that can be a message for the people and youths to understand about the importance of wild animals to make them love wild animals,” Kimsreng said.
Commune police chief Iet Virak determined the time of death – midnight – by the blackout that occurred at that time. He said villagers had reported that five elephants were left in the region and that the one that died was the largest male.
It’s not the first time an elephant has knocked over a an electricity pole nearby. (more…)