Sabah becoming key hub for African wildlife trade, says report


PETALING JAYA: Sabah is emerging as an important transit point for illegal wildlife commodities from Africa, the Maritime Executive, a news journal for the world’s marine shipping industry, reported yesterday.

Traffickers are giving the Borneon state prominence to complement other hubs for wildlife trade in Asia, such as Cambodia and the “Golden Triangle”, a mountainous area overlapping Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

As evidence, the report said the Malaysian Customs Department in Sabah’s Sepanggar Bay port, near Kota Kinabalu, had seized 8,000kg of pangolin scales that had arrived in 226 sacks in July.

This was followed by a seizure of 5,000kg of African pangolin scales in late August from Nigeria and 3,000kg of ivory from elephants at the same port.

“The trade in live elephants, elephant skin, combined with continuing demand for ivory, is threatening elephant populations, from Asia to Africa,” it said.

“Pangolins are in high demand in China and Vietnam for their scales,” it added.

It said shipments from Africa were already being made through Malaysia to reach Cambodia, which is another key transit hub for ivory and other high-value wildlife products.

“In August 2016 and in May 2014, two large ivory seizures were made at the international port of Preah Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s only deep water port,” it said.

Over 600kg of raw ivory, shipped from Mozambique, were found hidden in a consignment of corn. More than 3,000kg of ivory from Kenya, via Malaysia, were found in a shipment of beans, it added.

The Maritime Executive report also said more than one tonne of raw ivory, destined for Preah Sihanoukville, were seized in Kenya’s port of Mombasa prior to export in 2016, and nearly three tonnes of ivory from Kenya were seized in Kenya and Malaysia in separate raids in 2011.

The report also said many of Asia’s poached and farmed tigers were currently passing through the Golden Triangle, where tigers, elephants, bears and pangolins were four of the most widely-traded species

“Rhinos, serow, helmeted hornbill, gaur, leopards and turtles round out the list of threatened species that are openly sold in a region that is Ground Zero in the illegal wildlife trade,” it said.

It cited a list based on surveys by wildlife monitoring network Traffic and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“They represent species frequently seen for sale in a criminal trade that threatens wildlife across Asia and into Africa,” the report said.

It said a major driver of the trade were tourists from China and Vietnam to areas such as Mongla and Tachilek in Myanmar, border areas like the Laotian town of Boten, and the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, also in Laos.