Eco-Warriors, Poachers Battle in Cambodia

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According to World Bank statistics the country's annual per capital income is only U.S. $290. A recent World Bank poverty assessment indicated that 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and that 90 percent of that group are found in rural areas.

The economic distress limits non-poaching alternatives, and forces many to the forests despite outreach and education efforts that stress environmental conservation.

Wildlife rehabilitator Nick Marx recognizes the challenges of facing conservation without viable alternatives, something WildAid tries to stress in addition to its military-style patrols. "I think basically that wildlife has always been considered food or something to be traded," he told Baker at WildAid's Cambodian headquarters. "In a poor country there have to be alternatives to that before you can actually make a difference…actually eradicate the trade in wildlife. You have to give them something else. I guess old habits die hard."

In many cases those old habits aren't dying at all. Nick Baker was left with a sadness for the forests, their wildlife, and even for many of the perpetrators themselves. He sees a very complex issue with no obvious solutions. "If someone took away everything that you own, what would you do?" he asked. "You'd do what they're doing."

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