Recent Wildlife Crime Arrests Lauded with Hopes of More to Come
Last week, reports confirmed that two Vietnamese nationals were found in possession of wildlife parts, including that of two Malayan tigers. The animals were caught by wire snares, which are used rampantly in many Southeast Asian forests by poachers. The haul is believed to be worth up to RM500,000 in the black market, according to YB Dr Xavier Jayakumar, Minister for Water, Land and Natural Resources. This has been the biggest wildlife crime haul thus far for 2019.
The presence of foreign poachers in Malaysian forests is not new, and has been highlighted repeatedly by both government bodies and NGOs alike in the past few years. With the increasing proof of their presence in and around forests across the country, it is clear that poaching by foreigners is a widespread issue and not just localised at a small number of sites. This also correlates to the snaring crisis that is evident in many Southeast Asian countries, giving rise to the potential ‘empty forest syndrome’, where a forest is eventually devoid of wildlife.
The evidence of these foreigners in our forests reiterates the urgent need for Malaysia to immediately step up wildlife protection efforts on the ground at a national level. We can see that happening now with the government’s commitment to putting more boots on the ground, especially with the intentions of deploying 2,000 army personnel to protect wildlife and the Malayan tiger in particular.
Dr Jayakumar also stated that the ministry views wildlife crimes as serious offenses, and he will be suggesting an increase in the existing fines under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 to at least RM1 million. These are welcomed changes that will hopefully send a strong message to perpetrators.
However, there is still a need for operations to be scaled up in terms of coverage and intensity as poaching threats remain as rampant as before. Therefore, we echo the call and efforts of the minister in engaging with the Ministry of Defense in the hopes of deploying 2,000 army personnel to protect our forests from foreign encroachment. In addition, we also urge the government to consider setting up a National Tiger Task Force such as that set up and chaired by the Prime Minister of Nepal, and an environmental crime bureau to specifically and holistically address poaching and the illegal wildlife trade from an enforcement perspective. The establishment of the National Tiger Conservation Committee and Wildlife Crime Control Coordination Committee in Nepal made it possible for the country to almost double their tiger numbers, as well as achieve 365 days of zero poaching for rhinos, elephants and tigers between 2013 and 2014.
Regardless, the government or NGOs cannot protect wildlife, especially our fast disappearing Malayan tiger, on our own. There are less than 200 Malayan tigers left in our country at this point in time, and we can only halt its rapid disappearance if we work together as a nation to protect it.
Protecting our wildlife, which really is a national treasure, is is truly a joint effort that requires collaboration across NGOs, government, corporate stakeholders, local communities and the general public. Together, we can play an active role in the protection and conservation of our Malaysian wildlife for generations to come. You can play a part by reporting wildlife crimes to the PERHILITAN Hotline (1-800-88-5151, Monday – Sunday: 8.00am to 6.00pm) or the Wildlife Crime Hotline - 019 356 4194.
Dr Henry Chan
Conservation Director, WWF-Malaysia
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For more information, please contact:
Communications Manager, Peninsular Malaysia Conservation Programme, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603-7450 3773