Malaysia: Wildlife Dept on buddhist release of pythons

Dept: Don’t release captive animals wildly
LO TERN CHERN The Star 27 Jul 16;

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Any organisation or individuals planning to release any animals into the wild should first consult the Wildlife Department.

Penang Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Loo Kean Seong said it was not an offence to release animals back into the wild as long it was the native species but they should be consulted as the animals could have parasites which may spread to other healthy specimens.

Commenting on the act of a group of individuals who recently released 16 pythons at an oil palm plantation, he said his department was not aware of the matter as they were not informed.

“Although the release was done with good intention, it is not necessarily good for the animals as such a practice will create a demand for them and this will lead to more being captured.”

It was reported that villagers and trekkers in Sungai Lembu were unhappy following video clips and photos of a group of men releasing the pythons went viral on social media.

The plantation is located near a village of about 500 people and the area is frequented by trekkers and mountain bikers.

Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Azman Hussin said those releasing snakes should do it responsibly as the firemen were always called when snakes were found in private properties.

"Snakes can be dangerous and should only be handled by trained professionals.

"By releasing snakes into populated areas, the department has to waste its resource by catching the snakes which should not have been there in the first place,” he said.

One of the men who released the snakes denied that the reptiles were freed in Sungai Lembu and declined to reveal where it was done.

Wanting to be known only as Goey, he said the snakes were bought from a pet shop with donations from Buddhist devotees and released into the wild as an act of goodwill.

Sungai Lembu Community Development and Security Committee (JKKK) secretary Yeo Keng Chuan when contacted said the residents had not lodged any police reports over the matter but he hoped that people would be more responsible when releasing wild animals.

Snake video causing anxiety
LO TERN CHERN The Star 26 Jul 16;

BUKIT MERTAJAM: A village here has been rocked by the mystery of 16 pythons that seemed to have pulled a Houdini act.

It all began when a video clip and photographs went viral, showing a group of men releasing the snakes at a place that were said to be an oil palm plantation in Sungai Lembu on July 18.

A furore ensued from trekkers and residents who were concerned about their safety.

One of the men has now come forward, claiming that the snakes were not released in Sungai Lembu or anywhere else in Penang.

The man, who only wanted to be known as Goey, refused to say where the pythons were released.

“We wanted to keep quiet about the matter but for the past one week, people have been condemning our act, which was done in good faith,” he said.

They bought the snakes from a pet shop on July 16 and released them as an act of goodwill.

Goey said the money used to buy the snakes came from donations from Buddhists, some from as far as China.

“We only helped them fulfil their wish to buy animals in captivity and release them to their natural habitat,” he added.

However, the video clip, which showed the men opening some sacks and releasing the medium-sized snakes, had caused anxiety in Sungai Lembu, which is a 20-minute drive from Bukit Mertajam.

Retired car dealer Tang Ching Swee, 51, who is an avid hiker, said: “We have about 100 members who would trek on different trails in Sungai Lembu almost every day.”

“The trails connect to Cherok To’Kun Forest Reserve where hundreds of hikers go daily,” said Tang, who has been hiking for the past two decades.

Rubber estate worker Chin Tee Aun, 51, also shared his concerns about being in the estate.

“As rubber tappers, we would enter the area sometimes twice daily; in the morning and late evening. We have not encountered any pythons but now we are very wary of every step we take,” he said.

Another resident Tan Sing Lee, 56, said the 500 villagers were worried for the safety of their children.

Some of the villagers also helped orchard owners to collect fruits such as durians, he added.

Sungai Lembu JKKK secretary Yeo Keng Chuan said that voluntary firemen together with villagers searched four areas around the oil palm estate on Sunday but found nothing.

“We tried to trace the location based on the background seen in the video clip but we were not able to determine the exact spot.”

When contacted, central Sebe­rang Prai Buddhist Association chairman Tan Jee Peng explained that Buddhists believed in doing good by releasing animals especially birds, fish and tortoises, during festivals.

He said the snakes should not have been released in populated places.

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