2011/08/22 By M. Hamzah Jamaludin firstname.lastname@example.org
KUANTAN: The Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716), which came into effect in December last year is having a detrimental effect on wildlife poachers.
A Tok Batin (village head) from Muadzam Shah was recently charged under the stiffer act with possessing body parts of protected animal species, a few days after two Orang Asli from the same area were caught selling elephant tusks.
Pahang Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) said there had been five wildlife-related cases involving Orang Asli this year including the two cases reported in the media this month.
Pahang Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said the Orang Asli involved would face stiffer penalties under the new act.
The new law provides for stringent penalties including mandatory jail of up to five years and a fine of between RM100,000 and RM500,000 for offences involving protected wildlife such as tiger, rhinoceros, serow (a goat), gaur (seladang), leopard, clouded leopard and false gharial (a type of freshwater crocodile).
Khairiah said the first case was reported in Maran on Jan 17 when an Orang Asli and two others were picked up for possessing a home-made gun and the meat of protected animal species.
Another Orang Asli man was arrested on Feb 21 after Perhilitan officers found 21 clouded monitor lizards on him while the Tok Batin from Muadzam Shah was caught on May 14 when officers discovered body parts of protected species including the totally protected Malayan sun bear and leopard at his home in Kampung Air Molek.
The fourth Orang Asli was caught in Rompin on May 15 for possessing and committing cruelty against 41 clouded monitor lizards.
The latest case, the elephant tusks, was reported on Aug 12.
Khairiah said under the new law, Orang Asli are allowed to consume certain protected animals namely wild boar, sambar deer, mouse deer, pig-tailed macaque, silvered leaf monkey, dusky leaf monkey, Malayan porcupine, brushtailed porcupine and white-breasted waterhen and emerald dove.
However, under Section 51 of the act, those who sell the animals are liable to a maximum fine of RM10,000 or six months’ jail or both.
Khairiah said under the same act however, the Orang Asli were not allowed to hunt other protected species and the department had been advising them from day one: “Do not hunt other protected animals as you will be arrested and prosecuted like others”.
“Unfortunately, some have not heeded our advice and thus we have no other options but to arrest and charge them,” said Khairiah who did not rule out the possibility of the Orang Asli being exploited by others.
“But we cannot nab the real culprits if the Orang Asli themselves refuse to divulge information. In many instances, the Orang Asli caught claimed that they were not hired by anyone,” she said.
Investigation a wildlife case was also more challenging as the Orang Asli suspects and witnesses can go missing in the jungle for months.
At the same time, evidence — such as animal carcasses and other traces — can be easily disposed of in the deep jungle.
To overcome the problem, Khairiah said Perhilitan had always cooperated with other enforcement agencies including the police; where it had been sending its officers for training to keep abreast with the latest investigation and forensic techniques.
At the same time, she said Perhilitan had also strengthened its cooperation with the Orang Asli community and various non-governmental organisations.
“To protect our wildlife, we have to play our roles more effectively,” she said while urging those who are not familiar with the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) to view it at http://www.wildlife.gov.my.
AUGUST and December last year were watershed months for the wildlife conservation community. It was in these months that the Wildlife Conservation Bill 2010 was passed by Parliament and then came into effect. Up until then, the wildlife of Peninsular Malaysia had been protected by the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, whose laws and penalties had not been amended since 1988. So its replacement, the new act, was significant not only because it had come after 13 long years of discussion and agonised waiting, but more importantly, because it raised the fine for the most serious penalty (for killing, shooting or being in possession of a most endangered animal or its parts) more than 30 times the previous amount, set a high minimum fine, and made imprisonment mandatory. In addition, it also made the taking or keeping of derivatives an offence — thus making the sale of any product claiming to contain derivatives also illegal. Across the board new provisions were detailed to be more protective of wildlife and harsher on those involved in the illegal wildlife trade. The Wildlife Conservation Act was a law for the 21st century.
Thus, that the Pahang Wildlife and Natural Parks Department (Perhilitan) has been actively catching offenders and is applying this new law on them is a good thing. Laws mean nothing if they are not observed or enforced. Addressing the crime and its criminals requires not only having enough enforcement personnel, but also that these personnel know all the laws and have all the necessary skills that can help them do their jobs. This does not just apply to Perhilitan personnel, but also to Customs officers at ports and airports, police investigators, deputy public prosecutors and judges.
But the protection and conservation of wildlife goes beyond catching poachers red-handed in the jungle. In spite of, or perhaps because of, its illegality, wildlife trafficking is a thriving international business. The illegal wildlife trade goes beyond the violation of an animal’s life and dignity. All smuggling and trafficking activities are inter-linked; so whether it be drugs or wildlife or humans, it’s all business. And at every link of a successful illicit trade chain will be some person who accepts a bribe and subverts the law he is supposed to uphold. The new act and its penalties are meant to give real bite to the law; but if no one is caught, no one is investigated, no one is prosecuted, and no one is found guilty and sentenced, this “bite” will be about as effective as a set of dentures left on the bathroom shelf.
Read more: Wildlife watch http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/16lif/Article/index_html#ixzz1W1v30F1J