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Come clean over confiscated ivory

June 25, 2013

FMT LETTER: From S Param, via e-mail

There have been several calls recently from local and international NGOs to Perhilitan and the Natural Resources Department to open its inventory with regards to the confiscated ivory in its possession. Since there is an open allegation that RM several millions worth of the confiscated ivory is missing or believed to have been sold to third parties, it’s pertinent for the ministry concerned to clear the air.

I concur with the view with the NGO (Nature Alert) that before any of the confiscated ivory is destroyed by our authorities it must first be properly audited by a neutral body. Failing to do so will only cast a very negative and deplorable picture of the authorities concerned. The issue is not going to go away and by keeping quiet it will only generate international outrage which will seriously dent the image of the country worldwide.

If at all the allegations are true (that some of the confiscated ivory has been missing) the ministry concerned should immediately lodge a police report so that a proper investigation can be carried out by the authorities. Trying to protect one or two individuals will only damage the good name of the ministry. Furthermore its not fair for the ministry to protect “corrupted” individuals (if the allegations are true) at the expense of the hundreds of other honest and hardworking staff.

NRE and all other related agencies involved in this case should realise that the world’s conservationists are watching and in the event this issue of missing ivory is not handled professionally it may backfire. Wildlife groups like the WWF and TRAFFIC may invoke the (treaty) – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for member countries to take action against Malaysia. Sanctions can be imposed and it will be very “hurting” and damaging to our reputation as a signatory to the CITES treaty.

According to WWF reports of poaching for illegal ivory has claimed about 30,000 lives of African elephants annually. More than 700 South African rhinos were reported to have been slaughtered yearly for their horns and the figure seems to rising. Apparently all these illegal trade is said to be fueled by the demand in Asia and the Middle East where elephant tusks and rhino horns are used to make ornaments and used in traditional medicine concoctions.

Due to the stringent and vigilant enforcement in many countries especially in Europe and America those who are dealing in this illegal trade are moving their operations to Asia. Malaysia happens to be one of the counters been targeted by these smugglers.

The Malaysian customs and other enforcement authorities have doubled up their surveillance and it is not going to be easy for these ivory smugglers to operate freely. The many successful stories in the press of enforcement agencies like the customs and the police for intercepting RM millions of worth of illegal consignments (drugs, animal products, fire arms, medicines, etc) are testimony to Malaysia’s commitment in combating illegal trade including wildlife products.

However it appears that our enforcement agencies’ integrity with regards to handling confiscated or contraband materials is viewed as not keeping to acceptable international standards. The government should review the SOPs of all the relevant enforcement agencies in the handling and storing (safe and secure) of valuable and sensitive confiscated products and materials such as ivory, drugs, etc. until the trial is over and are destroyed. Periodical inspection or audit by a professional should be conducted on these confiscated materials to identify any irregular activities or security lapses in the system to avoid unwanted allegation of sorts.


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