National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Nick Baker reveals the new militancy emerging in one of Southeast Asia’s conservation movements while accompanying a group of “eco warriors” on an armed hunt for poachers in Cambodia’s Bokor National Forest. Airs Nov. 30, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
WHAT MOTIVATES SOMEONE to brave landmines and AK-47-toting poachers to save endangered species? To find out, correspondent Nick Baker ventures into Cambodia’s Bokor National Forest, once one of the last refuges of the Khmer Rouge, on his first in-country expedition for National Geographic Ultimate Explorer.
The illegal wildlife trade is one of Southeast Asia’s most profitable illegal activities. It is a multibillion dollar industry, often unsuccessfully regulated by governments whose citizens drive demand and whose officials often participate directly in and profit from the trade. With an enormous number of endangered and desirable animal species, the forests of the region are particularly vulnerable.
Baker’s guide to this shadowy world is Mark Bowman, an Australian ex-commando who is one of the architects of the military-style anti-poaching program in Bokor National Forest. Bowman works for WildAid, a conservation group that embraces military-style tactics and that managed to get government concessions to lead an armed war against poachers.
But there is another side to the story. Thousands of poor Cambodians who live near national parks depend on poaching for survival. For these people, one poached pangolin or chopped-down tree can spell the difference between life and death, food and starvation.
Some say that these “eco warriors” are just what is needed to save Cambodia’s endangered species, but to others, they are crossing the line and taking advantage of their authority. Join Baker as he investigates the front lines of this environmental battle and experiences both sides of the issue.