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2015: A disastrous year for wildlife protection in Malaysia

January 3, 2016

Wildlife NGOs say despite small improvements, the government has largely failed to protect the welfare of the country's wildlife.



From: Sean Whyte and Jennifer Yeap via e-mail

A new year has dawned without any noticeable changes in attitude by the government towards the illegal wildlife trade or animal welfare. A look back at 2015 reveals a catalogue of abject failure and dereliction of duty by those paid to protect wildlife and enforce the law.

Attitudes towards animals in Malaysia seem entrenched in the 19th century.

Five years after the Wildlife Conservation Act became law in a fanfare of publicity, we have yet to see it enforced. It has made no noticeable difference.

We have seen a government cover up of its illegal ivory stash.

We have not seen anyone prosecuted for the numerous imports of ivory.

We have not seen anyone arrested for the thousands of tortoises illegally imported into Malaysia, despite seeing them in zoos and for sale in pet shops.

We have not seen any notable illegal wildlife trader arrested.

We have seen more cases of illegal logging – though, seemingly, law enforcement officials have not.

We have seen elephants continue to be abused in zoos and parks, despite numerous reports to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (MAZPA).

We have seen countless acts of cruelty in zoos throughout Malaysia. Illegal, yes, but permitted by Perhilitan.

We have seen arguably the worst zoo in Malaysia: Bukit Gambang.

We have seen the extinction of the rhino in Sabah. In your lifetime, a magnificent species, now extinct because of neglect.

We have seen the cover up by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) of those guilty of mass poisoning of elephants.

We have seen numerous turtles slaughtered in Sabah with no arrests.

We have seen no improvements at Sabah’s shabby Lok Kawi Zoo.

We believe we are witnessing a cover up in progress regarding the whereabouts of two sun bears gone missing from a tourist attraction in Sabah.

We continue to see baby orang utans exploited for commercial purposes at Sabah’s Shangri-la Resort.

Why are baby orang utans loaned out to a hotel? Would the hotel’s tourism revenue drop if the baby orang utans were removed – as they should be?

One glimmer of hope: A few zoos appear to now be making an effort to improve.

What are the chances of any change for the better this year?

None: Unless there is a change in attitude by Perhilitan, the Sabah Wildlife Department, and their respective ministers.

Sean Whyte is CEO of Nature Alert and Jennifer Yeap is with Malaysian Friends of the Animals.

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