Malaysia: Hunters to become the hunted


PUTRAJAYA: The heat is on for poachers of Malaysian wildlife. They will now come under fire from both fronts – legally and with heavier firearms.

In an interview with The Star, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the authorities were looking into the possibility of further arming enforcement officers.

“We have been given some firearms by the Home Ministry. If there is demand and requirements, I am willing to go and see Deputy Prime Minister (who is the Home Minister) to see how we can further arm our officers,” he said.

A recent survey suggests that rangers in 11 tiger range countries which include Malaysia said they faced life-threatening situations from poachers and the community.

“Hunters go to the forest carrying guns but our people carry parang. If you have officers with a gun, they will have the upper hand. We need to look at things in perspective,” Wan Junaidi said.

He was asked if the ministry would consider arming wildlife enforcement officers in Peninsula Malaysia, considering rampant cases of killing by armed poachers.

Under Section 8 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, he said National Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) enforcement officers were authorised to carry weapons in the exercise of their duties.

“The authorities involved in the operation will be supplied with arms by the department.

“There are also joint operations with other enforcement agencies, such as the army and police, if there is a risk involving wildlife crimes,” he said.

This comes as the conservation groups warned of links between organised crime groups and the illegal trade of wildlife, such as tiger and sunbear carcasses and their parts.

In the Ranger Perceptions: Asia survey, some 334 of the 530 rangers surveyed in 11 tiger range countries said they had faced life threatening situations with 74% of them also saying that they were not provided with proper equipment and amenities in their work.

The first ever United Nations World Wildlife Crime report also identified Malaysia as one of the top reptile skin exporters, saying that much of the trade was illegally sourced.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the ministry was also looking into amending the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which could see offenders fined up to RM1mil and be whipped.

Currently, the highest penalty that could be imposed on offenders under the Act, he said, was a fine of up to RM500,000 and a prison term of not more than five years.

“During the five years of the implementation, the Government finds that there is a need to amend the Act in force now.”

‘Yes’ to armed wildlife officers

PETALING JAYA: The proposal to arm wildlife and forest enforcement officers has been raised and praised in a number of forums by conservation groups.

Calling it a good initiative, Malaysian Nature Society president Henry Goh said the proposal was an added measure to protect wildlife.

“For various reasons, this has not been carried out. Firearms will provide a measure for the officers to protect themselves as well as be a deterrent to poachers,” he said.

Goh was commenting on The Star report that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry was looking at arming the officers.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had said that under Section 8 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, National Wildlife and National Parks Department enforcement officers were authorised to carry weapons while on duty.

Traffic South-East Asia regional director Dr Chris R. Shepherd said wildlife officers and rangers around the world were increasingly coming under threat because poachers and organised crime networks were involved in illegal wildlife trade.

“The poachers and criminal gangs are well funded and well armed. There are a number of cases where these officers have been shot, wounded and even killed in the line of duty.

“They are up against great odds, risking their lives to protect an area and wildlife,” he said.

Dr Shepherd said Malaysia has very strong laws, especially in the peninsula, when it comes to wildlife conservation but continues to be plagued by illegal wildlife trade.

“Increasing penalties may be helpful but ultimately, disrupting the wildlife crime networks from top to bottom and removing the kingpins is important,” he said.

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