Malaysia: Licences for sugar glider imports soon

Yiswaree Palansamy New Straits Times 13 Apr 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: SUGAR gliders, which have been enjoying popularity among pet enthusiasts, may soon require special licences to be kept as domestic species here.

Currently, the nocturnal creature is not covered under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 [Act 716] and the International Act 2008 [Act 686].

However, the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) records show that the number of sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) being imported is on the rise as more people are keen to keep the species as pets.

Department director-general Dr Zaaba Zainol Abidin said they were taking steps to protect the animal by including it in the First Schedule of the act.

"This is because sugar glider is an exotic species, to control the importation of the species into the country and lastly, to control the ownership through licensing,

"We also want to protect the species from the illegal wildlife trade, which is quite rampant," said Dr Zaaba.

The New Straits Times learnt that the proposed First Schedule had been forwarded to the Attorney-General's Chambers for review. Once the revised schedule is gazetted, keeping sugar gliders or breeding the species will require a licence from Perhilitan.

The species is not protected under existing laws.

There are 8,936 sugar gliders registered with the department.

Although sugar gliders are not yet listed as an endangered animal, the species had been identified as one of the most commonly traded wild animals in the illegal pet trade.

Its relatives, such as the Leadbeater's Possum and the Mahogany Glider, are in need of great conservation efforts as they are two family species facing extinction.

The sugar glider is protected by law in South Australia, where it is illegal to keep them without a permit.

Dr Zaaba said that the department reviewed periodically the types of animals that are permitted to be kept as 'domestic friends' every year.

"We do an in-depth study on the species and check to see if they are listed as endangered or is on the brink of extinction before making a decision to allow such animals to be kept at homes."

He added that prior to taking home an animal which is listed as exotic, a person would be subjected to various requirements.

"We do not allow certain types of animals to be kept in condominiums, taking into account the animals' safety as well as the wellbeing of others," he said, adding that the review was extremely important.

Some of the animals which had been banned as domestic pets are the American bullfrog and the red deer.

Dr Zaaba said while the red-eared slider, a common kind of tortoise species seen at homes, is large in number here, it had already been banned from being imported into the country.

"The species, to begin with, is not a locally available breed and the ban took effect last December.

"However, we will only monitor and not take action against those already here."

Dr Zaaba added that the species could create chaos to the ecosystem and thus, its import had been halted.

Dr Zaaba said those who wanted to know more about the kinds of animals banned from being kept as pets could refer to the Fifth Schedule under the Wildlife Conservation Act. It can be downloaded from Perhilitan's website.

Malaysians sweet on sugar gliders
Yuen Mei Keng and Isabelle Lai The Star 29 May 12;

PETALING JAYA: There is a high demand for sugar gliders as pets even though these squirrel-like animals will soon be a protected species in Malaysia.

While the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) has confirmed that these small possums will be protected, it is business as usual for pet shops and breeders who sell them.

Breeder Goh Yong Chow said he sold about 20 to 48 sugar gliders a month compared to one or two monthly in 2008.

Goh, who owns a pet shop in Malacca, said it was a trend nowadays for people to keep unique and expensive pets.

“In 2007, there was a huge demand for hamsters but now, the focus is on ‘high-end’ pets like sugar gliders.

Sugar gliders are imported from Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Goh said they were now cheaper compared to previously when one baby sugar glider could be sold for between RM300 and RM350.

“Now, we sell them for RM250 each,” he said.

Pets More Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Sean Saw said sugar gliders were currently popular as the pets were “friendly, tame and easy to care for”.

Perhilitan said steps had been taken to include sugar gliders in the First Schedule of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

This will allow the department to control trade pertaining to the species, including importation and ownership through licensing.

Perhilitan said the proposed amendments to the First Schedule had been forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

“Once the revised schedule is gazetted, keeping sugar gliders will require a licence from the Department.”