Malaysia: Do more to curb illegal trade of rare butterflies, say experts

JOASH EE DE SILVA The Star 10 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: The country’s wildlife monitoring system needs better enforcement to prevent illegal trading of rare and endangered butterflies from Malaysia

UKM’s Institute for Environment and Development associate fellow Zainey Zainudin said Malaysia has one of the most species of butterflies in the world.

“I believe a large population of butterflies are traded as these insects are easily transported unnoticed.

“Data collected by Cites (Convention On International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) showed that of the 13,000 butterflies in South-East Asia meant for export, 98% were supplied from Malaysia in the period from 1998 to 2007,” she said.

Zainey was asked to comment on a recent bust of 1,180 endangered butterflies by Custom officers in China, which included those from Malaysia and the national butterfly – the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing.

She said butterflies were mostly exported to the United States, European Union countries and Canada for the curio market, in which the insects were pinned and framed as collectors’ items.

Zainey said a task force must be set up to address the smuggling of wildlife species.

She said the Government must also work together with the Western countries which were the main importers.

Wildlife trade watchdog Traffic agreed that greater attention should be paid to the buying and selling of insects, especially through online portals.

“There is a need to be more vigilant as it will have a multiplying effect in safeguarding endangered species,” said Traffic senior communications officer Elizabeth John.

She said authorities and logistics providers should be more alert as in the case of China, the smugglers had been ordering butterflies from Malaysia for some time.

The list of protected insects in the Wildlife Conservation Act (2010) also needed to be reviewed, she added.

There are now only 132 species on the list.

UPM’s entomologist Prof Dr Rita Muhamad Awang said so far, some 2,000 species of butterflies and 4,500 species of moths had been identified in the country.

Dr Rita said the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing was an endangered species and could be sold at a high price.

“Butterflies are part of the tropical beauty in Malaysia and contribute to its biodiversity,” she said.

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