Kuala Lumpur, 24 January 2016 – Social media has exploded with outrage after the discovery of the tiger carcass in Kemaman and the arrest of three men through the efforts of the Terengganu Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan). Very rightly so.
Amidst the anger and sadness, the questions being asked are: why and how did this happen to our national icon? Would China allow their pandas to be taken this way? Was it a lack of vigilance? A lack of overall effort? Incompetence or negligence?
With only an estimated 250-340 tigers left, every individual tiger is important to the wild population. We are this close to losing wild Malayan tigers.
To prevent further losses, the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) calls for:-
1) Maximum penalties to be meted out to the suspects – RM500,000 fine AND 5 years jail. In two separate cases in Sabah last year, convicted traders were slapped with maximum jail terms or fines. Peninsular Malaysia’s courts need to give similar recognition to the severity of these crimes.
2) The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to revise the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 to include mandatory whipping (with a minimum of three strokes of the cane) if possible, for offenders up to 60 years of age, when it involves extremely rare wildlife as listed in Section 68 (2) of the Act.
3) Alternative penalties to be used against poachers and traders, for example freezing bank accounts, confiscating passports, revoking all business licences, etc. The Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 could be used to weed out and disrupt the big players in wildlife trade syndicates.
4) The Government to increase the budget for enforcement patrols, and Wildlife and Forestry Departments to increase patrols in the forest. Between 2010 and 2013, more than 2,241 poachers’ traps and 1,728 illegal camp sites were found by NGOs conducting research in Peninsular Malaysia’s forests. With the current economic crisis, it will be increasingly attractive for poachers to hunt endangered wildlife. Similar to how security needs to be stepped up to counter potential threats to national safety, we also have a duty to protect our wildlife.
5) The Government to allocate more resources to Perhilitan for building intelligence networks. The fact that Perhilitan was acting on a tip-off highlights the important role that the public plays as a source of information.
6) The public to report all suspected wildlife crimes to the 24-hour MYCAT Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-356 4194 / firstname.lastname@example.org or the Perhilitan Hotline at 1-800-88-5151.
7) Everyone to keep up the public discourse and build social pressure against the act of poaching and consuming endangered wildlife. The illegal hunting of Malaysia’s wildlife, our national jewels, must be considered absolutely unacceptable by society.