Malaysiakini Letter

Why no arrests over ‘rampant’ international wildlife trade?

Sean Whyte
Published:  |  Modified:

After years of trying to persuade the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Malaysian Customs to take this trade seriously, it is somewhat encouraging to at last see more confiscations taking place.

A case of better late than never.

If only such actions were begun ten years ago, thousands of animals would have been spared the cruelty and premature death inflicted on them by the callous criminals involved in this evil and highly illegal trade.

But why are we not seeing any arrests? Doesn’t this strike you as odd?

Are these criminals smarter than law enforcement authorities, every time? Really?

Either way, the absence of arrests and dependence on official excuses remain deeply troubling.

This week 300 tortoises from Madagascar have been confiscated at the KL International Airport. Years ago, we regularly sent Perhilitan photos of the same species openly on sale in pet shops. As far as I know, no action against the shops was ever taken.

Even before then, in a television documentary, Al Jazeera had exposed a Malaysian as the kingpin in the trade of tortoises and Malaysia as a major importer of these protected species. With this week’s confiscation, it appears the trade in tortoises remains rampant. I wonder who could be behind the trade these days?

While individual government officials who really are trying to stop the trade should be commended, the almost total absence of arrests remains inexplicable and suspicious.

It’s way past the time when Malaysia deserved sanctions from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and investigation by Interpol.

SEAN WHYTE is the chief executive of Nature Alert.

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