Published 10 August 2010

New taskforce makes big agarwood seizure

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10th August 2010—Member agencies of a newly created anti-poaching taskforce seized two tonnes of Agarwood stashed at a jetty on Banding Island which is located near the wildlife rich Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in the north of Peninsular Malaysia. 

Agarwood is found only in a few Asian tree species which produce resin-impregnated heartwood as a response to fungal infection. It has been used for centuries as highly-prized perfume, incense and medicine, particularly in the Middle East. © James Compton / TRAFFIC

The seizure last week was the taskforce’s maiden effort, and also resulted in the seizure of 31 Masheer fish Tor putitora, protected under state laws but highly sought after by poachers.

The taskforce brings together Perak state and federal agencies and is the first of its kind set up in the country specifically to tackle wildlife poaching, trafficking and forest encroachment issues.

The operation last week involved the Anti-Smuggling Unit, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Perak State Parks Corporation, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the Fisheries Department and the Perak State Forestry Department.

Individually, these agencies are often hampered by a lack funds and manpower necessary to mount large scale operations against well-networked poachers and wildlife traffickers. 

Traditionally, they have also tended to focus on issues relating directly to their own departments, stretching resources across the same vast landscape where they carry out their enforcement work.

In a statement to the press TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and WWF-Malaysia congratulated the multi-agency taskforce on their significant seizure last Thursday, and highlighted it as an example of an effective approach to tackling a complex problem.

“Bringing State and Federal agencies together, marshalling resources, sharing information and empowering all agencies to act whatever the nature of the crime might be, is exactly what needs to done to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade,” the statement read.

The two tonnes of agarwood seized in Pulau Banding is just a symptom of a widespread poaching epidemic. From research and past enforcement action, agarwood has consistently featured as the main draw for poachers. While searching for this fragrant resin, they will poach any other wildlife that comes their way.

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and WWF-Malaysia also thanked agencies involved for responding to their call for a tougher and more co-ordinated approach to the countless cases of poaching and wildlife trafficking observed in the area over the past two years.

The two organizations also called for the model taskforce to be replicated in other poaching hotspots around the country and for these efforts to receive continued financial and political support.