Watchdog roasts Perhilitan over rife wildlife smuggling

Anson Wong, a.k.a. The Lizard King, gets physical when 101 East Presenter, Steve Chao asks him whether he continues to trade in threatened and endangered animals.  — Picture courtesy of Al Jazeera
Anson Wong, a.k.a. The Lizard King, gets physical when 101 East Presenter, Steve Chao asks him whether he continues to trade in threatened and endangered animals. — Picture courtesy of Al Jazeera

PETALING JAYA, Nov 26 — The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) must explain how convicted wildlife trafficker Anson Wong was able to continue  trading.

The ministry, had in October 2010, announced all licences held by Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee were revoked.

However, when asked during a recent interview by Al Jazeera how he was able to continue trading, Wong replied: “Ask the government”.

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic senior communications officer Elizabeth John said this was worrying and the government must clarify the situation.

She pointed out the ministry, had in 2010, announced in Parliament it had taken steps to ensure officers within its agencies would be prevented from colluding with wildlife smugglers.

John said Traffic wants the ministry and Perhilitan to declare all permits issued since 2010 to companies linked to Wong and Cheah that were revealed in the “Return of the Lizard King” documentary. 

She said they must disclose who approved the permits and what species have been traded using those permits.  

John said Traffic had written to the ministry for an explanation.

She asked if the authorities had investigated the contents made available in Wong’s laptop and the three handphones confiscated during this arrest in 2010.

She said the convicted Malagasy woman, caught for trafficking hundreds of Madagascar tortoise into the country as featured in the documentary, provided information on 

Wong’s direct involvement in their smuggling attempt during an earlier interview with the local media. 

During the documentary, Daniel Tanuwidjaja of Indonesia — one of Wong’s trusted distributors — claimed he paid off wildlife and customs officials in both Indonesia and Malaysia to allow shipments from Wong.

John said if a news agency, with no enforcement powers and little access to information, could unearth such damning details, there was no excuse for government agencies to not take action on such matters.

“The rest of the world is reacting to global wildlife trafficking with growing seriousness; including offering million dollar rewards for information on top traffickers.”

“The documentary certainly raises questions about Malaysia’s commitment to fighting wildlife trafficking,” she said.

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