Wildlife officers cripple major syndicate

Wan Junaidi smiles as a Mollucan Cockatoo tries to pry off the buttons of his suit at the ministry’s building in Putrajaya yesterday. — Picture by Razak Ghazali
Wan Junaidi smiles as a Mollucan Cockatoo tries to pry off the buttons of his suit at the ministry’s building in Putrajaya yesterday. — Picture by Razak Ghazali

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 21 — Authorities scored a major coup against wildlife traffickers when they seized exotic animal parts and rescued endangered species worth more than RM500,000 in separate operations on Wednesday.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the haul was among the biggest in the country and indicated increasing demands for exotic pets.

“It is shocking how the demand for such animals has grown. A six-month old tiger, a critically endangered species, seized was meant for a Malaysian at a cost of RM200,000,” he said.

“It appears our people are no longer interested in the usual cats and dogs, they are looking for tigers and alligators and this is a disturbing development.”

The raids, conducted simultaneously in Selangor, Kedah, Kelantan and KL International Airport on Wednesday, resulted in the arrest of five individuals believed to be from the same network.

In all, 32 live animals were rescued, including non-native animals like a dwarf caiman (alligator) and a Mollucan Cockatoo which had been smuggled into the country.

Two of the raids were conducted on pet shops in Kelantan and Selangor, one of which had four baby long-tailed Macaque’s for sale.

The individual arrested at airport was an Indian national, who attempted to smuggle tiger and other animal parts, which included teeth, claws and skin of these animals.

Wan Junaidi advocated the punishment for possession or trafficking in exotic and endangered animals be jail terms instead of the usual fines.

Under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, offenders can be fined between RM100,000 and RM500,000 and a maximum jail sentence of five years or both.

“Right here, we have RM500,000 in merchandise at least, and the maximum fine under the Act is the same amount... it does not hurt them to pay the fine,” he said.

“The judges presiding on such cases need to exercise the provisions under the Act to jail offenders instead of fining them. Let us see how they like being in a cage.”

Wan Junaidi also urged those wishing to keep exotic pets to apply for the right documentation from the authorities.

“We need to keep track of the trade in animals for a variety of reasons especially to ensure protected species are not being traded,” he said.

“The public has to do their part and come forward with any information to help the enforcement authorities take action against traffickers.”

He also said the department was hot on the heels of several poachers who had killed a tiger recently.

Pictures of that incident went viral, sparking a public outcry and the department had appealed for information and tip-offs.

“They are being hunted down,” he said.

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