Malaysia: Despite stricter enforcement, illegal wildlife trade at worrying levels

P. Aruna The Star 10 Jun 13;

PETALING JAYA: The illegal wildlife trade in the country is rising at worrying levels despite stricter enforcement and heavier penalties.

Greedy traffickers who gain huge profits from the cruel and unethical trade are focusing on Malaysia as it is among the few countries which still has tigers, elephants, sun bears, pangolins and other sought after species.

A live tiger is worth about US$50,000 (RM154,690) in the black market. Its skin alone can be worth up to US$35,000 (RM108,283).

A dead tiger's carcass, without the skin, fetches about US$5,000 (RM15,469). The prized parts of the big cat are sold separately with its penis worth about US$4,000 (RM12,370).

Elephant tusks sell for US$1,800 (RM5,566) a kilo while rhinoceros horns are priced at about US$97,000 (RM299,944) a kilo.

Among the animals highly sought after by poachers in Malaysia are wild boar, sambar deer, barking deer, mousedeer and porcupine and several species of rare birds.

According to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), traffickers are motivated by the high profit margins in the wildlife trade.

“Animal parts are used in traditional medicine, folk remedies and as aphrodisiacs,” said a department spokesman.

He said tigers were mostly hunted for bones, skin and body parts, bears for their gall bladders and paws, pangolins for their meat and for their scales while snakes such as pythons are traded for their skins.

Rare birds are sold at high prices while geckos are traded based on the myth that they are able to cure ailments, including erectile dysfunction.

“Wildlife crime is run by international networks and operate much like the illegal drugs and weapons business,” he said, adding that stricter laws and tighter enforcement had not deterred poachers and traffickers.

Under the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, any person who sets or uses any snare for the purpose of hunting can face fines ranging from RM50,000 and RM100,000 and be jailed for a maximum of two years.

Between 2008 and last year, Perhilitan enforcement officers found and destroyed 2,377 snares set by poachers in forests and protected forest reserves.

The global illegal wildlife trade is worth an estimated US$5bil (RM15.46bil) to US$20bil (RM61.84bil) annually, with China, the US and Europe as prime markets.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, senior programme officer for Traffic South-East Asia, a wildlife monitoring network, said the demand for wildlife parts was on the rise worldwide, with the rate of poaching for elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns at its highest in 20 years.

She said in Malaysia, sambar deer and barking deer have been so rampantly hunted that Perhilitan has banned all deer hunting until 2015.

“Another species of concern is the pangolin, which is the mammal most commonly encountered in seizures across South-East Asia.

“Rarer and more endangered animals like tigers and serow are also very much in demand,” she said.

She said poachers often targeted the Belum-Temengor Forest area, Taman Negara and Endau-Rompin, especially for larger animals such as tigers and bears.

“Poachers are very good at what they do. They know the landscape and are usually a part of a vast, well-oiled network that illegally takes, smuggles and trades wildlife with great speed, using clever methods to evade the law,” she said.

High demand for animal parts driving illegal trade
The Star 10 Jun 13;

PETALING JAYA: Aphrodisiac value, traditional medicine, exotic food and decorative items are among the “uses” of animal parts, which fuel the lucrative wildlife trade.

Besides its skin, bones and claws, the tiger’s penis is also highly prized for its supposed potency.

Although such claims have no medical basis, the organ of the big cat is still being sold to enhance male virility and ends up in very expensive soups.

Tigers, elephants and snakes such as pythons are also killed to making trophies and luxury goods such as shoes, belts and bags.

The bones of tigers, bile and gall bladder of bears, porcupine bezoars (foreign material that is swallowed and collects in the stomach) and scales of pangolin are among the parts still being used in traditional medicine.

The flesh of the pangolin is also eaten as a sex stimulant.

Geckos are also much sought after for their supposed aphrodisiac value. A lizard weighing 300gm now sells for about US$1,200 (RM3,715).

Traffic South-East Asia’s senior programme officer Kanitha Krishna­samy said tigers were also being hunted for their teeth, claws and whiskers – used for “magic or superstition” – while freshwater tortoises and turtles and deer were sold as food.

She said while some of the wildlife parts were exported, there was still a demand for such “exotic” food among locals.

Kanitha noted that in Sabah and Sarawak, orang utan and bears were even kept as pets.

As for banned bear products, Malaysia ranks fourth among 13 countries studied in Traffic’s regional survey on traditional medicine shops across Asia.

“Although it is completely illegal, the trade continues,” she said, citing a case in 2011 when the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) seized parts of a leopard, bear and deer from a man’s freezer in Pahang.

Kanitha said the most powerful action Malaysians could take in fighting illegal wildlife trade was to “think before buying”.

“Don’t consume the meat of totally protected or endangered wildlife, don’t buy products and medicines made from these animals, don’t take them home as pets and don’t support places which do all these.

“When the demand stops, so will the destruction,” she said, adding that speaking up about the issue would help make decision-makers sit up and take notice.

On its part, Perhilitan has urged the public to report suspected illegal activities such as poaching, trapping or the sale of illegal wildlife meat to its hotline at 1-800-885-151 or e-mail it to

To report to Traffic, contact the network’s 24-hour Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-356 4194.