Crackdown on wildlife trade needed

LETTERS: It is with relief, hope and gratitude that environmentalists received the welcome news that Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador has directed all district police chiefs to report on wildlife trade in their jurisdictions within a month, announced on Aug 19.

This is consistent with the IGP’s earlier pledge in October last year to crack down on wildlife crimes and push for harsher penalties for those convicted.

We further commend the Royal Malaysian Police’s decision to revoke the firearm licenses of those found to be involved in the hunting of wildlife and hope that police will continue to investigate licence holders and revoke licenses and confiscate firearms where necessary.

This is not only an important move to curtail wildlife hunting and prevent the killing of wildlife in situations where the wild animal does not pose an actual and immediate threat to human lives and safety, but also to preserve national security and reduce firearm-related accidents, injuries and deaths.

Our IGP’s commitment to protecting Malaysia’s wildlife is applauded, as is the Wildlife and National Parks Department’s (Perhilitan) recent operations that resulted in the arrest of poachers and the timely rescue of live animals and recovery of wildlife parts and products. However, the kingpins who fuel demand and create supply in the wildlife trade avoided detection and arrest.

What we need is for our enforcement agencies to work with Interpol, conservation groups such as TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and MYCAT and for governmental and intergovernmental agencies to gather incriminating evidence against these ringleaders and masterminds and bring them to justice.

Malaysia’s wildlife species have been declining rapidly due to poaching, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict. Hardly a week goes by without another news report of elephant or tapir deaths due to traffic accidents or poisoning, or tiger deaths due to poaching or as revenge for eating livestock.

For years, concerned members of the public and conservation groups have been alerting the police and Perhilitan to the presence of pet stores, traditional medicine shops, restaurants and online traders selling wildlife and wildlife parts, only to experience frustration and dismay when these reports did not result in arrests or consequences.

Conservationists have long urged for swift and decisive action to be taken against wildlife offenders and for harsher penalties to be meted out. It is an open secret that VIPs and people in positions of power and influence are often involved in wildlife crimes and often get away unpunished. The “soft approach” to tackling wildlife crimes has not worked.

For too long, wildlife and environmental crimes have been perceived as being victimless or less serious than crimes against humans or property, which explains why penalties are frequently inadequate. Today, we know this is not true. The wildlife trade is a lucrative one, and it finances and is linked to human trafficking, the drug trade, organised crime, government corruption and terrorist activity.

Dusky leaf monkeys that were seized by Perhilitan. The authorities should target the kingpins of the illegal wildlife trade. FILE PIC

There are amendments being proposed to the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 to increase the minimum penalty for wildlife poaching to a minimum fine of RM1 million and 15 years’ imprisonment.

I believe I speak for all right-thinking and responsible Malaysians when I urge all members of parliament to vote in favour of these harsher penalties. Any MP who votes against harsher penalties should be investigated for any possible links with the wildlife trade industry, as it is inconceivable that there could be any good reason to oppose such a proposal.

A vote for a harsher sentence is not only a vote for the continued survival of wild and endangered species, but for a safer, better, healthier country and planet.

Wong Ee Lynn, Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Article published on 27th August 2020 | The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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