Malaysiakini Letter

Wildlife going cheap and fast in Malaysia

Sean Whyte & Jennifer Yeap  |  Published:  |  Modified:

It has recently emerged that anyone with RM3 can buy a government licence that enables them to go to a pet shop and purchase a snake, turtle, parrot and countless other wild animals, even though they have no previous experience of caring for the species or knowledge of suitable habitat in which to keep them. How stupid is that?

RM3 is the price the government puts on the heads of wildlife. Wildlife traders, illegal or otherwise, charge a lot more - profits are enormous.

Could this be a reason why so many tortoises and turtles continue to be imported, illegally, into Malaysia?

Nature Alert and Malaysian Friends of the Animals have been reporting seeing tortoises illegally for sale in pet shops, for years. Perhilitan routinely turn a blind eye to such illegal sales. Don’t believe me?

You try reporting any suspicious illegal activity to Perhilitan and wait to see if they take any action.

Despite our reports, despite over 1,000 tortoises from India being confiscated recently, and another 500 last week being confiscated in India but otherwise on route to Malaysia, to the best of our knowledge no Malaysian importer or shopkeeper has been arrested and prosecuted.

No one is going to import all these tortoises, incidentally the same species we see for sale in pet shops, unless there are buyers for them, are they? There has to be dozens of Malaysian wholesale buyers of illegally imported tortoises out there, but mysteriously, Perhilitan does not find and arrest them - not a single one.

Exactly the same thing has happened previously, and recently, concerning illegal shipments of ivory. No one in Malaysia is ever prosecuted. Does this strike you as odd, even suspicious?

For all the talk of the minister, much like his predecessors, in reality nothing ever changes.

The illegal wildlife trade in Malaysia remains rampant and arrests rare.

Dozens of zoos still openly flaunt the law and not one has ever been prosecuted. The unreported, until now, deaths of, and cruelty to, animals in Malaysian zoos, is a can of worms we will return to at a later date - prepare to be shocked.

No change then.

SEAN WHYTE is the chief executive of Nature Alert, and JENNIFER YEAP is with Malaysian Friends of the Animals.

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