Crimes Against Wildlife
Just How Serious Is Wildlife Trafficking In Malaysia?
By Hana Maher
Wildlife trafficking is often touted as the third most valuable illicit commerce on the globe, after drugs and weapons. Zooming in on Malaysia, we’re often bombarded with news of the illegal trade along with accompanying images depicting seized pangolins, elephant ivories, rhino horns, tiger and bear parts. While the news often highlights CUSTOM’S success in crippling these illegal operations, it still pegs the question, just how prevalent is wildlife trafficking in Malaysia?
According to the President of Sahabat Alam Malaysia in Penang, S.M. Mohd Idris, the developed infrastructure in Johor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang have resulted in Malaysia serving as the top 10 hubs for wildlife trafficking. To make matters worse, due to our country’s strategic location, Malaysia also serves as a transit hub whereby these smuggled endangered animals and exotic items are exported from Malaysia AND imported to Malaysia for the purpose of re-exporting it within and outside of South East Asia (SEA).
As a matter of fact, a 2018 news article underlined that Malaysia was connected to a multimillion-dollar trafficking network of endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises, with the link spanning from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand and finally, Malaysia. The operation, which was code-named ‘Operation Dragon,’ led to the arrest of 30 culprits and the jailing of five individuals in Malaysia as well as the discovery that the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is a destination airport for these illegal trade for the past four years, due to its significantly less tax fees. To add insult to the injury, 11 different traffickers professed that they had arranged in 16 separate occasions for their illegal shipment to be ‘cleared’ by a corrupt official.
Reputable sources also brought to light the unfortunate reality where government officers partake in the illegal trade due to its lucrative profit and therefore, succumb to colluding with poachers as well as with those who have connections with international syndicates. Meanwhile, Clean Malaysia reported that wildlife officials dealt with 3,000 wildlife trafficking cases in 2017, whereby at least 150 species of animals were trafficked in Malaysia.
It goes without saying that wildlife trafficking is prevalent in Malaysia and more efforts are needed to put an end to this unfortunate travesty. The CEO of WWF-Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, had previously called for all parties to play an active role in halting the illegal wildlife trade, which includes but not limited to, educating the consumers of the consequences of their actions. In doing so, it may aid in decreasing the demand for these illegal trades. And as for the rest of us, let’s all be more vigilant and aware of how severe this crime is and to stand against wildlife trafficking in unity.