Published 5 August 2010

Malaysia gets tough new wildlife law

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 5th August 2010—Malaysia’s Parliament this week passed the country’s tough new Wildlife Conservation Bill 2010 which provides significantly higher penalties and mandatory jail terms for wildlife crime.

The new law, expected to come into force by the end of this year, will replace the 38-year-old Protection of Wild Life Act.

The highest penalty in the existing Act is a maximum fine of RM15,000 (USD4,700) or five years jail, or both, for hunting a Sumatran Rhino, Tiger or Clouded Leopard.

Under the newly passed law, the same offence carries a minimum fine of RM100,000 (USD 31,600), and a jail term not exceeding five years. 

It also provides for minimum fines, a mandatory jail sentence for setting snares and closes loopholes by providing penalties for products claiming to contain parts of protected species or its derivative, and preventing zoos from operating without a permit.

The Bill widens the list of agencies empowered to enforce wildlife laws by including Police and Customs officers, and it protects more species of wildlife.

Those convicted of a wildlife crime under the new law will be barred from holding any license, permit or special permit for five years from the commencement of a case.

Illegal trade in key species such as pangolins and monitor lizards, have also been singled out for tougher penalties.

“Finally, agencies have a solid wildlife law that they can wield against poachers and smugglers who have had little to fear from the paltry fines and jail sentences of the past,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Regional Director Dr William Schaedla.

“TRAFFIC Southeast Asia would like to congratulate the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, as well as the Department of Wildlife and National Parks on the passing of the Bill.

“The new law has given Malaysia the means and the opportunity drive home the message that it is serious about curbing this menace.

“So we hope the new law will be the catalyst for an all out war against wildlife crime and that it will result in more prosecution of such criminals in the courts,” he said.

The new Bill received widespread support from the public with many writing to their Members of Parliament asking them to support it when it was being debated. Among them were the thousands who also signed a petition last year seeking better protection for Malaysia’s wildlife. 

The Bill aims to protect domestic wildlife. This June, Malaysia’s International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 came into force. Two women found guilty of attempting to smuggle tortoises from Madagascar into the country became the first to be convicted under the Act and were each sentenced to a year in jail.