Raids on exotic meat restaurants lead to seizures, arrestsIn a late night operation on 6 July 2007, wildlife authorities raided 10 restaurants in Kahang, a town in the southern Malaysian state of Johor, seizing more than 300kg of meat of several wildlife species. Kahang is the gateway to Endau Rompin National Park, one of three priority tiger conservation sites in Malaysia.
The raids were conducted by 28 personnel in 6 teams from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks’ (DWNP) Wildlife Crime Unit simultaneously, acting on information collected by researchers from the wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
Kahang, a town of 12,000 residents, is a wildmeat restaurant hotspot, infamous for many eateries offering exotic meat dishes, both legally and illegally sourced. Both locals and visitors frequent these restaurants.
This enforcement effort was planned to work hand-in-hand with the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) community campaign to reduce local consumption and trade of tigers and tiger prey species. Conducted in collaboration with Johor National Parks Corporation, the first education outreach programme was held in June in Kampung Punan, an Orang Asli (aborigine) village nearby believed to be involved in the sourcing of wildmeat from the Endau Rompin National Park. A similar programme will be held in the Kahang Chinese primary school in August. Assisting in the implementation of these programmes are the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF-Malaysia and the Malaysian Nature Society and a group of Mandarin-speaking volunteers.
“This is a good illustration of how conservation partners can effectively work together to produce a successful result. While law enforcement activity of this nature seeks to punish offenders, outreach programmes reinforce the importance of protecting wildlife. We need more cooperation and collaboration of this nature to ensure we can better protect our wildlife,” said DWNP Director General Abd Rasid Samsudin.
In the raids last week, four were in violation of the Protection of Wild Life Act 1972, and had in their possession several species of protected wildlife. The items seized were 152 Water Monitor Lizards, 8 Large Flying Foxes, 11.35kg of Wild Boar meat and 4.5kg of deer meat. The meat was found in refrigeration units; one of the restaurants had a large, walk-in freezer to store large quantities. Five individuals were detained in connection with the cases, and should be charged at the end of this month.
The suspects claim the wild boar and deer meat were legally sourced (DWNP issues licenses for regulated, legal hunting), but investigations are underway to determine the legitimacy of their claims. Both wild boar and deer are important tiger prey species.
Apart from these hotspot-specific programmes, MYCAT will soon launch a nationwide consumer education and awareness campaign
The MYCAT campaign against consumption of wildmeat is supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund.