Malaysia: Falsified permits are fuelling global illegal wildlife trade

The Star 29 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: It’s so easy – and even legal – to own exotic animals. And this is fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade.

This is because the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permits can be and are often falsified.

In Malaysia, traders who wish to sell exotic animals and individuals who want to buy them need to have the CITES permit for each one they want to sell or keep.

Traffic South-east Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said the existence of fake permits, which state that the animals were bred in captivity when they were actuality taken from the wild, was a “long-standing issue”.

“Wildlife is often taken illegally from the wild and laundered into the global market via captive-breeding businesses.

“The animals are exported with paperwork falsely declaring them as captive-bred,” said John.

She said the responsibility was with potential buyers to check whether the exotic animal they wanted to buy was indeed captive-bred.

“Keeping exotic pets, especially those sourced from the wild, may contribute to the decline of a species in the wild.

“If in doubt, do not buy,” she said.

She added that the Government needed to ensure that exotic animals, such as the Indian Star tortoise recently seized in the country from an illegal wildlife trafficking ring, were actually bred in captivity.

“We strongly urge governments to consult with experts before allowing the import, to look into the likelihood of the species in question actually originating from a breeding operation,” she said.

Wildlife Alliance Science and Global Development director Dr Thomas Gray said the exotic pet trade, even if legal, contributed to animal poaching from the wild.

“In many circumstances, it is used to launder animals caught in the wild as ‘commercially bred’.

“Many CITES permits are fake as it is physically impossible for all the ‘captive bred’ reptiles traded globally to come from genuine and well-managed captive facilities,” said Gray.

He said the ownership of exotic animals as pets should be discouraged.

Referring to two types of tortoises – red-footed and pancake – that were seen being sold in two exotic pet shops here, Gray said both of types of tortoises were CITES-listed species whose populations in the wild have been seriously impacted by the exotic pet trade.

“Neither species is suitable as pets,” he said.

Just RM3 for a protected wildlife licence
The Star 29 Jul 16;

PETALING JAYA: From as low as RM3 for a one-year licence from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), Malaysians can legally own animals whose numbers are declining in the wild.

Depending on the species, the licence fee varies from RM3 to own a scorpionidae, RM5 (Burmese python), RM10 (short-tailed parrot) to RM20 for animals protected under Malaysian laws.

The law stipulates that only exotic animals bred in captivity can be sold in shops. However, there appears to be little checks on this.

Traffic South-East Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said animals categorised under Appendix II of CITES could only be traded internationally with proper permits and licences.

(Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora states that the species will face extinction unless poaching from the wild is controlled.)

“We don’t know where the traders are getting it from,” she said, adding that pet shops should seek verification on the origin of the animals.

Under the law, when a pet owner buys an animal, he must take it to a veterinarian who would then insert a microchip in it. In cases of birds, a ring would be attached.

After that, the new owner only has to bring the animal, his identity card, the receipt for the purchase of the animal, a utility bill (if the owner is living on a landed property) or a letter from the maintenance office to Perhilitan to apply for a licence.

Despite these easy steps to get a licence, there seems to be no awareness or urgency from pet owners to obtain it.

“When you buy an animal from us, we will issue you a receipt. Just bring it (the receipt) to Perhilitan and you can apply for the licence,” said a trader during a visit by The Star to an exotic pet shop in Petaling Jaya.

A visit to another exotic animal shop in Kuala Lumpur showed a similar scenario.

When the seller was asked where his supply came from, he remained silent. He said the onus was on the buyer to apply for the licence to own the exotic animals.

“You don’t need to have a licence to buy the animal, you can buy it first and then apply for licence.”

“They (the authorities) won’t check your house lah,” he added.

They however, stated that they had the CITES permits, as required by Perhilitan, to sell them.

Perhilitan enforcement division director Hasnan Yusop said owners of these animals must have a licence to keep the pets.

“We will only issue licences for owners to keep wild animals bought from traders authorised by Perhilitan.”

“These traders have operating licences from Perhilitan and each transaction made by them must be recorded,” said Hasnan.

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