Pro-wildlife group slams bragging by poachers


PETALING JAYA: Traffic, an international wildlife trade monitoring network, has denounced the boasts of illegal hunters about their kills as audacious. It says this clearly shows that anti-poaching laws are weak.

Elizabeth John, Traffic’s senior communications officer for Southeast Asia, said the rampant poaching of wildlife, especially protected species in Sarawak, should be acknowledged as a serious problem and dealt with effectively.

Malaysia’s wildlife protection laws must be revised, she told FMT.

John was commenting on a news report about poachers showing off their spoils, including meat from the animals served on plates, in postings on Facebook.

One Facebook group based in Sarawak displayed wild creatures like the Malay weasel, Asiatic softshell turtle and clouded leopard as well langurs, macaques, snakes and pangolins.

All the animals were apparently dead, with some prepared for meals.

“The photos from the page show threatened species such as the critically endangered Sunda pangolin, sun bear and clouded leopard, which are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list of threatened species,” John noted.

She said the destruction of such imperilled species was worrying, adding that trade in the sun bear’s body parts was a major problem in Sarawak.

A Traffic survey in 2012 showed that whole gall bladders of sun bears were being sold in traditional medicine shops in Sarawak. Traders admitted that the items were locally sourced.

“Some of the Facebook posts showing pangolins being processed have prices listed, indicating that the hunters know the value of the animal in the illegal trade,” John said.

“When species are wiped out, it does not bode well for the state, which uses nature tourism as a key selling point.”

She said the law would never be taken seriously unless social media sites were monitored and investigated, with those found participating in the illegal acts prosecuted.

“The postings send a message that the likelihood of being arrested or prosecuted for a wildlife offence is very low,” she added.

She said the problem was widespread across Southeast Asia.

Former Malaysian Nature Society president Maketab Mohamed said the only way to solve the problem would be through law enforcement and education.

He said members of the Orang Asli community who were employed to catch these animals were often not aware that the species were endangered. “This is where educating about the status of the endangered animals is important.”

Maketab noted that there had been many arrests of suspected poachers, trophy hunters and people keeping protected species as pets over the years. However, he said he did not know if they had been convicted.

The 2012 survey, which covered 365 traditional medicine shops across Malaysia, showed 175 or 48% of them claiming to sell bear gall bladders and medicinal products containing bear bile.

The survey report said Kelantan and Johor topped the list of peninsular states where the product was sold, with bear bile pills being the most common item.

Nearly 60% of the 298 bear gall bladders observed for sale were claimed to be from wild sun bears killed locally.