Justice for our Malayan Tigers
As the country prepared to celebrate 59 years of independence at the end of August, enforcement officers from the Wildlife and National Parks Department executed a series of raids that turned up over a dozen tiger parts - our national icon.
Five raids, in five days, with 12 suspects nabbed and the skins, bones, teeth and claws of tigers seized, is a tremendous effort which the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) applauds.
As empowering as this enforcement success is, the discovery of so many tiger parts in four of the five premises raided across Kuala Lumpur and Selangor paints a very troubling picture for tigers.
It tells us that poachers are still plundering the jungles to feed the illegal trade. Traffickers are buying and selling parts with little fear of the law. And there is still a sizeable demand for Malaysia’s last 300 critically endangered wild tigers.
That the biggest haul of tiger parts in this series of raids came from seven Vietnamese nationals goes to show that as wild tiger populations dwindle elsewhere, the threat to and demand for Malaysia’s own will only grow.
There must be something more that Malaysia can do to better protect her national icon. This belief, and the loss of six wild tigers - three to poachers and a fourth, pregnant with two cubs, killed on a highway - while we were barely into the first quarter of 2016, drove Mycat to launch its petition for No More Dead Tigers.
The petition’s biggest demand is that the deterrent penalty for illegal tiger possession under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 is put to full use - maximum penalties be handed down to the serious criminals involved in depleting our tigers. We have not seen this happen so far.
As the legal cases arising from this most recent series of seizure, as well as those earlier in the year, come before the courts, we are presented with yet more opportunities to send a severe warning to all wildlife criminals, local and foreign.
What is the point of maximum fines of RM500,000 and a jail term of up to five years if they aren't used to scare poachers and traffickers out of this shadowy business? What are we saying to poachers and traffickers with just a slap on the wrist? Look, Malaysia is the easiest place to get tigers in the world?
Huge amounts of effort, time and resources, not to mention risk, are invested into investigations, intelligence gathering and case preparation to fight wildlife trade, for the identification and to dismantle criminal networks, and to better protect tigers and their habitats - this effort should not be undermined, dissolving hope just a little bit more when minimum sentences are handed down.
Malayan Tigers could do with more hope, a great deal more justice, and being uniquely Malaysian, should enjoy freedom in its one and only home - freedom from the tyranny of poachers, traffickers and tiger part consumers.
MYCAT is an alliance of the Malaysian Nature Society, Traffic, Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme and WWF-Malaysia.