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Online perils to wildlife

June 6, 2012

FMT LETTER: From S M Mohd Idris, via e-mail

As  early as 2007 Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) had raised the issue on online trade in wildlife and wildlife products, and the recent exposure about an online pet seller being nabbed comes as no surprise.

The incident underscores the need for enforcement authorities to work closely with Cyber Security, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and the Police  to deal with the problem fast.

This will put potential e- traffickers of illegal wildlife on notice that their nefarious activities will not be tolerated.

It is also a wake-up call to the authorities that the Internet, is the world’s largest market place, offering endless opportunities for criminal activities, among them a flourishing trade in protected wildlife.

It is providing  increased opportunities for the unscrupulous or the criminals to operate, taking advantage of the unregulated and impersonal nature of transactions.

The incident is proof that the Internet can easily be a conduit for wildlife crime and the dangers and perils that online wildlife trafficking poses to endangered species here and around the world.

However it is difficult to ascertain whether a wildlife product that is offered on line for sale in almost every nation is illegal or not.  When wildlife products are posted online, and the law does not require sellers to include  proof that their sales are legal, it is impossible to check if the products are illegal.

The onus is on the law enforcement officials to scour the internet for possible illegal wildlife sales  and charged alleged perpetrators with criminal violations.

SAM commends  the Perhilitan team who conducted this investigation so skillfully resulting in the nabbing of the online pet seller,  and  the female customer  for her effort in bringing the criminal to justice.

The internet wildlife trade must be addressed by law enforcement if endangered animals are to be saved from extinction at the hands of poachers, dealers and their worldwide criminal trade networks.

It is difficult to know the volume of  illegal wildlife trade transacted over the internet because an authoritative, dependable research on the subject does not exist but SAM believes the cybertrade in wildlife to be extensive.

Offering wildlife for sale creates a demand that puts wild populations at risk and can cause immense sufffering for individual animals.

The orang asli have become emboldened sprurred on by the demand for wildlife with many of them working closely with traders to hunt and trap wildlife, as they are now more aware of the value of endangered wildlife.

Traders are quick to exploit these people by using them to hunt for wildlife because of their hunting rights, and partly to  shield their activities from the authorities.

If the Orang Asli are truly involved in providing animals to the syndicate, then SAM  calls on the authorities  to prosecute them  to the full extent of the law and the judiciary to mete out the harshest penalty in accordance with the Wildlife Conservation Act.

This will  deter   them from supporting the cruel and unsustainable trade in wild animals and their parts. At the same time SAM urges for stern action to be taken against the online pet trader for  his illegal online activities.

The writer is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)


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