Strengthen the Wildlife Protection Act
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is relieved to learn that the Wildlife department will beef up security at all entry and exit points into the country through various measures.
This should include the two border towns of Sungai Golok and Betong on the Thai-Malaysian borders as well as all airports and seaports.
SAM welcomes the strengthening of the Wildlife Protection Act as currently the law has failed to deter the criminals even as several species are being mercilessly poached.
Unfortunately most cases of wildlife crime end in acquittal either because the procedures are not followed meticulously or the documents are riddled with loopholes.
Cases of wildlife smuggling should be treated like those in narcotics crime and punishment based on the quantum of seizures to help curb smuggling.
It is time to fight wildlife crime effectively, and collective actions must be taken to stop the key drivers that are bringing tigers and other endangered species to the brink of extinction: poaching, smuggling and illegal trade.
Protected from international commercial trade through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) Appendix I listing, tiger numbers are falling alarmingly and efforts to save this magnificent animal have unfortunately not yet lead to a reverse in the decline in tiger populations.
Facts suggest that action taken on the ground remains insufficient and marred by bureaucratic procrastination. There needs to be stronger effort in patrolling forest reserves, protection of tiger prey species, removal of snares and poachers from forest reserves.
On the other hand, the secretariat that runs Cites depends on member states to provide data and enforcement. Yet many Cites parties failed to systematically monitor and report international wildlife trade.
Most Cites listed species occur in countries where governance is often weak and corruption high. Poor data collection also lead to massive underreporting of animal and plant trade.
The other contributing factor to the rapid growth of illegal trade in wildlife is the Internet, which is having a devastating effect on animals and ecosystems. Fast, convenient and anonymous, trading of wildlife on the internet is posing a major challenge to wildlife conservation and law enforcement.
Countries who are parties to Cites should review their domestic legislation to ensure that offers for sale on the Internet of illegal Cites specimens are treated as offenses against Cites implementing legislation. A multi agency approach to counter wildlife trade on the internet
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment should work together with the Malaysian Communications and Multi Media Commission (MCMC) in adopting a multi agency approach to counter wildlife trade on the internet.
Measures include working with Internet auction sites to collect online wildlife trade crime information, reject online trade of animals and their products, raise consumer awareness on illegal wildlife trade on the Internet and engage Internet users to collect information on wildlife crime.
The other serious concern is the pet trade where several threatened and endemic species are being smuggled outside and in the country.
Asian countries have become the hub of dealers engaged in sale and purchase of birds and turtles on a massive scale while deterrent efforts are not forthcoming.
Wildlife crime requires the close collaboration of the Wildlife department, Forestry, Customs and the Police. These bodies should be fully informed and made aware of the new Act and Cites legislation governing wildlife in the country.
Cooperation and criminal intelligence sharing to stop trafficking in endangered species with Interpol playing a lead role in supporting national and international enforcement, is vital to stop transnational trafficking in endangered species .
S M Mohd Idris is the president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)