Full commitment needed to fight wildlife trafficking

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is finally relieved to learn of the revocation of all licences and permits issued to a notorious wildlife smuggler and the confiscation of all his animals and reptile by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Wildlife department.

However SAM is extremely concerned that with one wildlife trafficker caught others will fill the void.  The trade in wildlife is very much like drug trafficking. The business in poaching and trafficking is brutal, secretive and fully globalized.  Driven by low risks and high profits the risks are small and the penalties piffling.  Poachers driven by poverty earn just a small percentage while big time traffickers who control them are willing to serve any time behind bars.  Like any business worth its salt the animal trade continues to expand into new niches.

Wildlife traffickers choose countries that have minimal penalties as entry points and transport across the countries increasingly porous borders.  Poor regional and international cooperation is one reason animal traffickers have been running circles around the globe.

The corruptor shiftless authorities work hand in hand with traffickers.  Then again the  Convention on  International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) lacks teeth to protect species against illegal traders act.  It  is only a  treaty and not a law enforcement body with its signatories expected to implement the treaty’s provisions through domestic legislation and agencies.

Confiscation of all wildlife belonging to a notorious wildlife smuggler is not enough.  SAM urges the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry and the authorities to conduct an in-depth investigation into  Wong’s worldwide connections as well as look into the activities of all Malaysian animal dealers.

There is no way the authorities can win the battle to save species except to slow down the process.  Its challenge is to muster the political support necessary to push wildlife trafficking on national agendas and stir law enforcement officials into effective action.  The war against traffickers must be waged at the highest level of government.

As of now the fight against wildlife trafficking has to be a top priority by both developing and developed countries.  There are several practical solutions available but then Malaysia must be fully committed to control wildlife crime and foster regional cooperation and coordination between the government agencies supported by their international counterparts.  This is of utmost importance to effectively tackle illegal wildlife trade.

Letter to editor, 13 October 2010