"Mum, you need to be more patient," says nine year old Cambodian Bo Pa.
Her adoptive mother sits across the table of a red-and-gold-clad Chinese Restaurant in the heart of Phnom Penh, as they wait for their Mekong lobster to arrive.
"Bo Pa," she responds sternly.
"If I was built to be patient, the whole rainforest would be gone by now."
At the time - my first night in Cambodia - I didn't realise how close this big statement by this petite blonde American, Sowanna Gauntlett, was to the truth.
Yet by the end of my five-day trip, I would know.
On the menu is "Turtle Chinese Herb Soup".
Sowanna pretends to be interested in the meal, so the waiter enthusiastically reveals an Asiatic soft-shell turtle, around 70 centimetres in length, crammed in to a filthy crate not much larger than its body with just a few inches of water in the bottom.
It is a threatened species; and although it's alive, it's not moving.
We take photos and leave the restaurant, passing a glass cabinet with several shark fins proudly on display.
By morning, the Wildlife Alliance team has visited the restaurant, fined the owner and seized the turtle.
It is sent to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue centre to be rehabilitated and eventually released, but whether it will be caught again to appear as the main course on a restaurant menu, who knows.
Sowanna Gauntlett first visited Cambodia in the year 2000.
"Wildlife was being sold everywhere," she said.
"On sidewalks, in restaurants, in people's homes.
"Four-star generals kept tigers in cages in their living rooms, there were bears behind most restaurants waiting for their paws to be cut off after the next golf tournament as a delicacy, monkeys were waiting on restaurant table tops to have their brains eaten alive.
"It was something absolutely shocking to me and I had to do something about it, because I could not stand it."
The daughter of a wealthy heiress to a US pharmaceutical fortune, Ms Gauntlett tells of the piercing pain in the eyes of a snared tigress that she rescued during her first conservation mission in Cambodia.
Unable to shake the memory of its "cries for help", she pleaded her mother to entitle her trust fund to the mission of putting an end to the wildlife trade in Cambodia.
From there, the Wildlife Alliance was born.
Day two of my visit started in the early hours of the morning. I climbed into a van with several heavily-armed Wildlife Alliance guards, one of whom is ex-West Australian police detective Dean Lague.
"We've definitely had an impact," he said.
"We've got a long way to go. It's moved underground to some extent which causes us to have to do a lot more enquiry and investigation work.
"But they people here are scared of us. They know we will catch them."
Since Ms Gauntlett began lobbying the Cambodian Government more than a decade ago, the trade and capture of wildlife has been made illegal, with penalties of up to ten years imprisonment.
This morning I was working undercover with the Wildlife Alliance Rapid Rescue Team, sanctioned by the Cambodian government as an official enforcement team, raiding the properties of known animal traffickers along the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
Then it hit me.
I was sitting in between two stern-faced Government officials who spoke very little English. With my video camera in hand, it was hard to not feel the fear. I had little concept of what I was about to experience.
We cross the Mekong River and pull up in a slum built up around the main dirt road, villagers rush to watch the officials pile out of their vehicles.
I follow the guards as they wander into one of the nicer looking homes in the street.
In the front room, a table of men play cards; around the side of the property, the owner scurries to collect what looked like emaciated puppies no larger than his hand and puts them into a small rusty cage.
A government official beckons the man and he leads us through an ominous dark corridor to the back of his house where a woman and some young girls are.
The RRT begin to turn the home upside-down. Behind a large pot hanging on the wall is a plastic bag, a guard rips it open and out fall the rolled-up skins of three Burmese pythons, totalling nearly 10 metres in length.
A threatened species, they uncovered a significant find, although unfortunately not soon enough to save the reptiles lives.
Then, just as I zoom in on the trafficker's defeated expression, the guards pull a taped-up cardboard box out from underneath the kitchen table.
Tearing it open, they reveal 4 live Burmese pythons and crammed in so tightly that they are unable to move.
Dying of thirst, the snakes were rushed outside and drenched with water before being transported to the Wildlife Alliance Pnom Tamao Rescue Centre.
This trafficker arrested and fined $US700. If he cannot pay, he will most likely be sent to prison.
But this wasn't the man's first offence. He has been caught before with 200 kilograms of wild animal meat and fined the equivalent of around $US3,500.
With the average national wage sitting at $US1 a day, and despite the hefty fines, people still take a calculated risk in this lucrative trade.
Wildlife Alliance have arrested 2,100 offenders since 2001 and rescued 52,000 animals from the black market.
But this isn't where their conservation work ends.
They have also preserved 1.7 million acres of forest in Cambodia's Southern Cardamoms from being destroyed by slash-and-burn agriculture and have developed community projects to provide over 530 rural families with sustainable alternative incomes to illegal logging and poaching.
The most significant day of my travels was to the Rehabilitation Station in the Southern Cardamoms tropical forest.
Here I met a sun bear called Sloat.
Gazing at me from a concrete cage she was curious, but wary.
Her eyes met mine briefly; little did she know she was about have her freedom.
Sloat and her brother Sop-heap were rescued from poachers as cubs by Wildlife Alliance, rehabilitated, tagged and released back in to the wild.
But it wasn't long before the pair was trapped by snares, a barbaric hunting instrument made of razor sharp wires that close in around a limb or neck of an animal.
Sloat almost lost her paw, but several surgeries were able to see it eventually healed.
Recognising the dangers of releasing the pair in to the wild again, the Wildlife Alliance team sectioned off a protected one-hectare plot in the forest for Sloat and Sop-heap to live until such a time that the Cardamoms could be deemed safe.
Until then, this was to be the closest thing to freedom the bears will ever experience.
Sop-heap was already in the forest, and Sloat was about to join him.
In silence, and what felt like slow motion, I held my breath as the cage door slowly creaked open.
The sun bear stuck her little nose out of the door peering out for a brief inspection, then without warning, bounded out in to the greenery disappearing amongst the leaves.
The bears had safety and freedom for the first time.
Perhaps this was the feeling the keeps Sowanna Gauntlett fighting the endless battle.
Reporting these on-the-ground stories, it's sometimes difficult to reserve my personal involvement, and this was no exception. I was moved to tears visiting the sites of these projects.
The vision of the volunteers and conservation warriors involved with Wildlife Alliance expels a selflessness that I have not often experienced in the West.
Not one to ever ask for help, Ms Gauntlett built the charity from the ground up and achieved significant successes.
"You know sometimes courage is just thinking about the next step," she said.
"What can I do next, how can I stop these cages right here right now on this sidewalk? So often I would just yell at the people, take the cages, put it in my car and leave.
"Maybe I'm a task master but I drove [my staff] night and day to do this, and I didn't stop until I thought that the job was under control."
But now, Ms Gauntlett has no other choice but to appeal for support.
Her mother's trust fund will be exhausted by the end of 2013, and if the Wildlife Alliance projects are to continue, the foundation will need significant donations.
"I was fortunate enough to come into money because of my family," she said.
"But I have given it all, and I have nothing left.
"I've put the whole system in place to protect this rainforest and it needs to continue."
I found myself exhausting listening to her speak.
How a single person could come to a foreign country and tackle a hopeless situation of waste and destruction by those who have no concept of the value of the natural environment that surrounds them is beyond my comprehension.
You can donate to Wildlife Alliance through the Australian based foundation For the Animals. All donations go directly to Wildlife Alliance projects in Cambodia.
Jerrie Demasi was sent to Cambodia courtesy of For the Animals.
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