File photo of pangolin scales © TRAFFIC

File photo of pangolin scales © TRAFFIC


Published 16 March 2020


Malaysian court issues hard-hitting jail only penalty to poachers

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 16th March 2020—In a rare sentence by a Malaysian court, three Cambodian poachers were given no option but to spend time in jail when they were slapped with prison terms only and no fines. The three men received a total of 12 years and eight months each for illegal possession of a variety of protected wildlife.

Provisions under Malaysian wildlife law for the species in question allow judges to penalise offenders using a combination of fines and jail. Judges usually sentence using both types of penalties and at times only issue fines, making this sentence handed down by the Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court, both a novel and a hard-hitting one.

However, the trio will only spend 24 months in jail and not the full 152 months stemming from the seven charges they were convicted on because the court ordered all the jail terms to be served concurrently.

The Cambodian nationals were caught in a national park in Terengganu in May 2019, with parts of Sunda Pangolin Manis javanica, Bearded Pig Sus barbatus and Malayan Civet Viverra tangalunga. All three species are listed as Totally Protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, prohibiting any form of hunting or trade.

The poachers were also found with protected species such as Lesser Mousedeer Tragulus javanicus, Brush-tailed Porcupine Atherurus macrourus, Asian Brown Tortoise Manouria emys and Wild Boar Sus scrofa, where trade is permitted through licensing.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy Public Prosecutor Nur Ainaa Ridzwan, before Judge Nooriah Osman.

Increasingly, Malaysian courts are issuing heavy penalties for wildlife poaching and illegal trade. In May 2019, the Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court sentenced two Vietnamese nationals to a fine of MYR1.56 million (USD390,000), and two years jail each for illegal possession of threatened and protected animal parts. 

And in March 2019, another Vietnamese national caught in the state of Perak, was sentenced to a total of 19 years jail and MYR850,000 in fines after being found guilty of 10 charges under the same wildlife law. He was found to be in illegal possession of 273 wildlife parts.

Meanwhile a TRAFFIC report that analysed legal action involving seizures of Sumatran Serow Capricornis sumatraensis found that penalties meted out by courts in Peninsular Malaysia from 2017–2019 were far higher than in the preceding period of 2005–2010. The highest penalty for a Serow related offence was in 2017 with fines totalling MYR1.2million (USD300,000) and 48 months imprisonment given to two Malaysian men convicted of illegal possession of the animal’s head and other parts in a forest reserve in the state of Pahang.

Over 102 people have been arrested in relation to wildlife trafficking and poaching offences since Malaysia launched a ramped-up enforcement campaign against wildlife crime in September 2019, 43 of them local and the rest foreign nationals.