Pangolin scale sand wildlife parts have been seized across Malaysia in major wildlife crime busts. PHOTO/TRAFFIC
By ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
Thousands of elephant tusks, pangolin scales, live animals and wildlife parts have been seized across Malaysia in major wildlife crime busts by two enforcement agencies in recent weeks.
Most recent was a seizure by the Sabah Customs Department of three tonnes of elephant tusks and five tonnes of pangolin scales at the Sepanggar Port on 29th August. Customs told press they believed the shipments were from Nigeria, bound for China.
The discovery of this massive shipment comes a month after the agency’s record-setting seizure of eight tonnes of pangolin scales at the same port on 29th July.
A 43-year old local man has been arrested in connection with the latest case. Investigations are being conducted under Section 135(1)(A) of the Customs Act 1967 and Malaysia’s Anti-money Laundering, Anti-terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
Meanwhile, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) netted close to two thousand reptiles and dozens of wildlife parts in two separate operations in the States of Kelantan and Perak.
On 26th August, Perhilitan officers stopped a Vietnamese national who was driving a four-wheel drive vehicle at Sungai Siput in the State of Perak with over 200 suspected wildlife parts of totally protected species. This includes 188 pieces of Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus claws, 21 pieces of Sun Bear tooth, 17 pieces of Tiger Panthera tigris claw, 8 pieces of Tiger tooth, 1 piece of Sambar Deer Rusa unicolor horn, and parts of other unidentified wildlife.
The suspect has been charged under three different sections of the Wildlife Conservation Act and faces fines between MYR100,000 (USD24,000) and MYR500,000 (USD119,000) and imprisonment of up to five years if convicted.
Perhilitan Enforcement Director, Salman Saaban told a press conference that the agency believed the Vietnamese national caught with Tiger parts was not acting alone and that the Department’s investigations would focus on flushing out the network of local actors dealing in the parts of threatened species.
On 6th September, Perhilitan seized a stunning 1,214 Asian Box Turtles Cuora amboinensis, 219 Asian Giant Pond Turtles Heosemys grandis, 86 Water Monitor Lizards Varanus salvator and 300 snakes which are Monocled Cobras Naja kaouthia and King Cobras Ophiophagus hannah from a single premise in Kota Bharu in the state of Kelantan. There were no arrests but investigations into the case continue.
“TRAFFIC is very encouraged by this heightened enforcement in the country. Both the Royal Malaysian Customs and Perhilitan have done a stellar job of following up on intelligence and maintaining vigilance,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
“The landmark investigation on ivory and pangolin smuggling using the anti-money laundering law in the country is also highly commendable. Moving some eight tonnes of totally protected species banned from trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a clear indication of transnational organized criminality; TRAFFIC believes utilization of this legislation will aid in the effort to hit criminals where it hurts the most.
“We urge authorities to bring the full force of the law down on the parties behind the plunder of wildlife in the country and those allowing Malaysia to be abused as a transit hub for the international illegal wildlife trade.”