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M’sia needs more bite to curb wildlife smuggling

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Jan 2009: Malaysia needs to have more bite in its law to curb the thriving wildlife smuggling trade.

Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, said the country therefore, needs to urgently put in place, a more stringent law to nail wildlife smugglers.

Traffic director (Southeast Asia) Azrina Abdullah said the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 should be reviewed as it was outdated and had too many loopholes.

“There are some provisions in the act which could not be revealed and this has hampered implementation of the law. It does not serve as a deterrent to curb the smuggling,” she said.

Azrina was speaking to reporters here today, after a public lecture on Crafty Smugglers and Rare Reptiles by Bryan Christy, an investigator and author of The Lizard King.

She noted that lack of awareness and knowledge among law enforcers on the matter saw the failure of the prosecution to nail many offenders, despite making more seizures.

“Besides, smuggling of wildlife has not been taken as seriously as other crimes, such as drug trafficking.

Instead, many of them just received a compound and it failed to act as a deterrent. A RM500 fine, it is just a slap on the wrist for the offenders,” remarked Azrina.

She said there should also be better provision on how to handle the seized wildlife to prevent the animals from falling prey to smugglers.

Azrina said Malaysia, with its Kuala Lumpur International Airport and in Penang, is also a major transit and harbour hub in the region for wildlife smuggling activities for, among others, pangolin, bird, snake, lizard and tortoises.

“Geographically, we are very strategically situated and that has encouraged the activities,” she said, adding that animals were mostly exported to China and Germany.

To date, she said that Traffic, together with three other related non-governmental organisations, had been making proposals of the provisions in the act that needed to be reviewed.

“We have been pushing for the act to be reviewed over the past 10 years and we really hope to make headway in reviewing the act, this time around,” she added.

The NGOs have also started a petition campaign last September to collect 100,000 signatures from the public to support an amendment of the law. — Bernama


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