Malaysian wildlife law giving poachers a hard time

M. Hamzah Jamaludin New Straits Times 22 Aug 11;

KUANTAN: The Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716), which came into effect in December last year is having a detrimental effect on wildlife poachers.

A Tok Batin (village head) from Muadzam Shah was recently charged under the stiffer act with possessing body parts of protected animal species, a few days after two Orang Asli from the same area were caught selling elephant tusks.

Pahang Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) said there had been five wildlife-related cases involving Orang Asli this year including the two cases reported in the media this month.

Pahang Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said the Orang Asli involved would face stiffer penalties under the new act.

The new law provides for stringent penalties including mandatory jail of up to five years and a fine of between RM100,000 and RM500,000 for offences involving protected wildlife such as tiger, rhinoceros, serow (a goat), gaur (seladang), leopard, clouded leopard and false gharial (a type of freshwater crocodile).

Khairiah said the first case was reported in Maran on Jan 17 when an Orang Asli and two others were picked up for possessing a home-made gun and the meat of protected animal species.

Another Orang Asli man was arrested on Feb 21 after Perhilitan officers found 21 clouded monitor lizards on him while the Tok Batin from Muadzam Shah was caught on May 14 when officers discovered body parts of protected species including the totally protected Malayan sun bear and leopard at his home in Kampung Air Molek.

The fourth Orang Asli was caught in Rompin on May 15 for possessing and committing cruelty against 41 clouded monitor lizards.

The latest case, the elephant tusks, was reported on Aug 12.

Khairiah said under the new law, Orang Asli are allowed to consume certain protected animals namely wild boar, sambar deer, mouse deer, pig-tailed macaque, silvered leaf monkey, dusky leaf monkey, Malayan porcupine, brushtailed porcupine and white-breasted waterhen and emerald dove.

However, under Section 51 of the act, those who sell the animals are liable to a maximum fine of RM10,000 or six months' jail or both.

Khairiah said under the same act however, the Orang Asli were not allowed to hunt other protected species and the department had been advising them from day one: "Do not hunt other protected animals as you will be arrested and prosecuted like others".

"Unfortunately, some have not heeded our advice and thus we have no other options but to arrest and charge them," said Khairiah who did not rule out the possibility of the Orang Asli being exploited by others.

"But we cannot nab the real culprits if the Orang Asli themselves refuse to divulge information. In many instances, the Orang Asli caught claimed that they were not hired by anyone," she said.

Investigation a wildlife case was also more challenging as the Orang Asli suspects and witnesses can go missing in the jungle for months.

At the same time, evidence -- such as animal carcasses and other traces -- can be easily disposed of in the deep jungle.

To overcome the problem, Khairiah said Perhilitan had always cooperated with other enforcement agencies including the police; where it had been sending its officers for training to keep abreast with the latest investigation and forensic techniques.

At the same time, she said Perhilitan had also strengthened its cooperation with the Orang Asli community and various non-governmental organisations.

"To protect our wildlife, we have to play our roles more effectively," she said while urging those who are not familiar with the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) to view it at