Malaysia: Stricter penalties for wildlife crime

THARANYA ARUMUGAM New Straits Times 16 Dec 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Those involved in illicit wildlife trade will be dealt with stiffer punishment under an amended Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the amendments would cover a wider area of enforcement, including penalising those consuming protected species and increasing the penalties for crime against wildlife.

He said the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) recorded 23 cases of poaching out of 2,774 cases of wildlife crime between 2011 and August this year.

He said many wildlife poachers had evaded arrest, leading to the small number of those penalised.

Wan Junaidi said hundreds of cases could have escaped the radar, as poachers changed their modus operandi and remained a few steps ahead of the authorities.

The amendment, he said, would allow the authorities to act against those involved in wildlife crime, adding that wildlife meat on sale at restaurants was among the top issues to be addressed.

“There are weaknesses in the law and I’m discussing with the ministry’s legal advisers on finding ways to plug loopholes in the legislation so that we can get to the root of the problem and make sure all offenders are brought to justice.

“I have instructed Perhilitan to come up with papers detailing its recommendations and plans to better address the problem, including punishments and fines, before they are presented to the cabinet.

“Severe punishment will be imposed on those who commit wildlife crime, which is a lucrative business. This will include criminalising the dealing, smuggling, importing, transporting, exporting, eating, cooking, serving and processing of the meat and body parts of protected wildlife,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Wan Junaidi said existing penalties were mild and there were certain areas in the law that did not cover what seemed to be offences.

“There is a huge market for wild animals and related products, which will lead to extinction. The ministry is responsible for protecting wildlife and we will be at the forefront to stop poaching.

“These smugglers are making millions. A fine of RM20,000, for example, is not a big deal to them.”

Currently, those involved in poaching and other wildlife crimes face a penalty of up to RM500,000 and a jail term of not more than five years.

On the increase in sale of wildlife meat via the Internet, Wan Junaidi said he would discuss the matter with the police.

He said there were challenges and constraints in curbing wildlife crime, including inadequate enforcement officers at the country’s entry points.

Wan Junaidi said Perhilitan had beefed up its wildlife crime unit to strengthen enforcement.

He said an intelligence unit was formed to enhance networking and intelligence gathering.

Wan Junaidi said the ministry, along with the police, Armed Forces, Customs Department, Interpol and the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network, would enforce and facilitate investigations and intelligence-sharing to combat wildlife smuggling.

“Wildlife is part of our biodiversity.

“It is our responsibility to protect and conserve them for future generations.”

Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife director William Baya said the state government had increased areas under its totally protected area category where hunting was banned.

Baya said there were 20 enforcement officers assigned to monitor illegal wildlife trade activities by checking markets, restaurants and roadside stalls in the state.

The NST yesterday reported an increase in wildlife being sourced from within the country for the international exotic cuisine market.

Wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic, said the trend was worrying as those behind the illicit trade were aggressive in meeting the increasing demand.

It warned that failure to rein in culprits could spell the end of many endangered species.

Three detained, RM50,000 endangered species seized
ADRIAN DAVID New Straits Times 15 Dec 15;

HULU TERENGGANU: Three people, including a woman, were detained by the Terengganu Wildlife and Parks Department for being in possession of RM50,000 worth of endangered wildlife of various species, following three separate raids. Department deputy director Suhainah Pejalis@Farhana said that her officers seized 40 turtles and 20 frogs (katak demam) following two raids at a pig abbatoir at Wakaf Tapai in Marang on Dec 7 and 8.

"We picked up a man and a woman, both aged 60, at the same abbatoir on those two days.

They did not have any valid licence to trade in wildlife. We believe the catch will be sold to local restaurants," she said.

Suhainah added in the third raid yesterday (Monday), her officers detained a 27-year-old man at his home in Seberang Takir, Kuala Nerus for dealing in protected species via online sales.

The officers, she said, had kept watch on his unlicensed activities for a month and they managed to recover a hornbill and three burung murai batu (humming bird).

All three cases are being investigated under the Wildlife Protection Act, 2010 (Act 716) which upon conviction under Section 60(1)(a) has a fine of not more than RM50,000 or maximum two years jail, or both.

"For this year alone, we have made ten arrests under the Act for various offences.

The biggest offender was a man from Besut who was fined RM30,000 for being in possession of ten pythons, three giant tortoises, nine leatherback turtles and 26 katak demam.

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