Malaysia: Local pangolin smuggling syndicate busted

Junaidi Ladjana, Recqueal Raimi New Straits Times 9 Feb 19;

TUARAN: Sabah police and wildlife enforcement team have uncovered a local pangolin smuggling syndicate which has been operating for seven years in Kota Kinabalu and Tuaran districts.

The syndicate was also involved in the processing of meats and skins of the fully protected animal.

Two days ago, police and enforcement team from the Sabah Wildlife Department raided a factory at Jalan Sepanggar, Kota Kiabalu, and a warehouse in Kampung Bontoi, Jalan Tamparuli, here, and seized live pangolins, frozen pangolins, pangolin scales and meat worth RM8.4 million.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said the joint operation was carried out following a tip-off on pangolin meat and skin processing and smuggling activities in the state capital.

“We raided a factory (at Jalan Sepanggar) and found animal meat believed from pangolins which were processed and frozen inside six freezers. We also discovered several live pangolins in cages and 10 gunny sacks of pangolin scales.

“We detained a local man, aged 35, who was at the factory,” Omar told reporters at a press conference here today.

Also present were Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga and Kota Kinabalu police chief Assistant Commissioner Habibi Majinji.

Omar said the team also inspected a Proton Persona car and found 35 live pangolins kept inside the car boot. Two gunny sacks of pangolin scales and a digital weighing device were also found.

Following the first raid, he said the suspect led police and the wildlife enforcement team to a warehouse at Kampung Bontoi here, where they discovered three containers loaded with boxes containing pangolin meat.

Omar said all seizures from both factory and warehouse, consist of 61 live pangolins, 361 kilogrammes of pangolin scales, and 1,860 boxes of pangolin meat, with each box weighing 15 kg.

“Each kilogramme is valued at RM300. In the raids, we also seized two sun bear legs and four frozen carcasses believed to be flying fox. All seizures and arrest were taken to the Tuaran police headquarters for further action by the wildlife department,” he said.

Speaking further on the syndicate, Omar said investigation revealed that the arrested man acted as manager of the factory in Sepanggar, which was believed to have started operation seven years ago.

He said the man bought all the pangolins from local illegal hunters, adding that the protected animals were believed caught in the state and sent over to the factory to be processed and packed in boxes.

“Investigation also revealed that all pangolins are for the local market and Sarawak. We do not rule out the possibility that these pangolins are exported to other countries,” he said, stressing investigation was ongoing to track down other individuals involved in the syndicate.

Meanwhile, Tuuga said the department had not conducted an in-depth research on the population of pangolins in the state.

“So far, our pangolin research is focused in the Kinabatangan district following its low population rate (in the district). They are only found in certain areas, which have become the location of poachers.

“We have upgraded the status of pangolin to Schedule 1 (totally protected species) in 2016. This case is being investigated under Section 41 (1) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 for possession of protected animals and animal products,” he said.

Wildlife group: Malaysia seizes record 30-ton pangolin haul
Associated Press Yahoo News 12 Feb 19;

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities have seized a record 30 tons of pangolin and pangolin products in eastern Sabah state on Borneo, the biggest such bust in the country, a wildlife monitoring group said Tuesday.

The monitoring network Traffic said in a statement that Sabah police this month uncovered two major pangolin processing facilities, throwing a spotlight on Sabah's role in the sourcing and trafficking of the endangered scaly mammal.

Sabah police said over the weekend they had seized three refrigerated containers containing 1,800 boxes filled with frozen pangolins, another 572 frozen pangolins in separate freezers, 61 live pangolins and 361 kilograms of pangolin scales. Two bear paws and carcasses of four flying fox were also recovered. A 35-year-old Malaysian man, believed to be a factory manager, has been detained.

The pangolin is said to be the most widely trafficked mammal in the world, and its scales are in high demand in Asia for use in traditional Chinese medicine. The scales are made of keratin, the same material in human fingernails. Their meat is also considered a delicacy in China and other Asian countries.

Sabah police chief Omar Mammah said in the statement that initial investigations showed the facility has operated for seven years and that the suspect had bought the pangolins from local illegal hunters for distribution locally and to the neighboring state of Sarawak. He estimated the haul to be worth at least 8.4 million ringgit ($2 million).

Traffic said the whole pangolin bodies found frozen and boxed were likely to have been sold for meat consumption.

"Including this bust, Sabah has been implicated in over 40 tons of pangolin smuggling since August 2017, including 13 tons of African pangolin scales," it said.

It said the seizures came a decade after Sabah authorities discovered logbooks in 2009 kept by another pangolin trafficking ring. It said the logbooks revealed that about 22,200 pangolins were killed and 834.4 kilograms of pangolin scales sourced throughout the state and supplied to the syndicate over 13 months.

There were occasional seizures of live and processed pangolins since then. But a massive seizure of African pangolin scale shipments in 2017 at a Sabah port and at the Kuala Lumpur International airport originating from Sabah has since highlighted Sabah's emerging role as a transit point in the global trafficking of pangolin scales from Africa to Asia, TRAFFIC said.

The latest "seizure and the 2009 discovery confirm that Borneo is still an important source of pangolins for the illegal trade," Traffic communications officer Elizabeth John told the Associated Press.

WWF: RM8.4m pangolin seizure shows more protection needed
Olivia Miwil New Straits Times 15 Feb 19;

KOTA KINABALU: The seizure of thousands of pangolins worth RM8.4 million in Sepanggar and Tamparuli recently indicates that more has to be done to protect the endangered species.

World Wildlife Fund-Malaysia Sabah interim conservation head Tan Hui Shim said the crackdown by enforcement agencies was both a story of success and of failure.

“Success as it puts an end to years of ruthless hunting and killing of pangolins by one syndicate,” she said in a statement issued in conjunction with World Pangolin Day tomorrow.

“It is also creating a strong impact in furthering conservation efforts here in Sabah.”

Unfortunately, she added, it also showed that thousands of pangolins were hunted, killed and sold both locally and internationally by criminal syndicate.

Tan said WWF was grateful that the agencies’ hard work had resulted in the arrest of a man linked to a syndicate that authorities believe has been operating for seven years.

“Tackling wildlife crime in Sabah has been a constant challenge and it requires a long-term mechanism and committed resources.

“Based on this recent capture and other cases over the years, there is a need to seriously look into setting up a wildlife crime bureau to confront organised wildlife crime in a systematic and consistent manner.

“Those criminals are organised. Can the enforcement effort afford to be any less organised?” Over the years, WWF has been collaborating with the government in enforcement, including conducting joint patrols in protected areas and providing capacity training for enforcement officers on the ground.

She said the organisation would continue to work closely with government agencies.

“The survival of our wildlife is a shared responsibility. Illegal hunting, selling and possession of wildlife parts and other crime against wildlife are detrimental to the wellbeing of our environment.

“Upon conviction, the maximum penalty should be imposed on those caught in possession of protected species to match the severity of the crime.”