Malaysia: Poachers attempt to mislead authorities through social media

T. N. ALAGESH New Straits Times 7 Jul 18;

KUANTAN: Poaching syndicates seem to become more creative in their bid to avoid being tracked down by the authorities when they move in to lay out traps to catch endangered animals.

To avoid detection, they would sent false information or images about a certain protected animal spotted in one area while they would be targeting the opposite end,sending Wildlife and National Parks department (Perhilitan) rangers on a wild goose chase.

State Perhilitan director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said there were incidents when social media platforms would be abuzz with wild animal sightings at a certain locations and pictures of the animals would go viral.

“Usually when we deploy our rangers to the respective site to conduct checks, they will not be able to find anything including footprints or dung trails (elephant). In some cases we will set traps or send our officers to monitor around the clock.

“However when the department had deployed its entire manpower at a certain area, the poachers might be hunting in another area. They are trying to divert our attention so that it will be easier for them to do their illegal activities,” he said when met.

Ahmad Azhar said the department is familiar with such modus operandi and have a special plan when it comes to dealing with such scenario.

A Perhilitan officer, who declined to be named, said while some people find it exciting to spread fake news related to endangered species, the poachers have utilised the images usually downloaded from the internet for their own gain.

“Some cases are genuine so we have to be on the alert when verifying the reports. We need our officers to conduct surveillance at other areas to check if there are individuals trying to hunt or set traps elsewhere.

“Since poaching activities are being closely monitored, the culprits try new methods hoping to dupe the authorities so that they will not get caught. Perhilitan are better prepared in handling such situations as we have a special enforcement team monitoring social media platforms to verify the authenticity of the photos,” he said.

In March this year, Perhilitan clarified that images of an adult Malayan Tiger which was circulating on social media was taken in India and not in Gambang, here, as claimed.

Early last year, a social media user posted images of a tiger on social media claiming that it had killed a cow in Sungai Karang, here, and reminded residents to cut down on outdoor activities.

However, checks by Perhilitan revealed that the pictures of footprints uploaded on social media belonged to dogs and the tiger images were not genuine.