Wildlife Department vigilance leads to five leopards seized in five months
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 17th February 2014—Wildlife authorities have arrested two men and seized a leopard—the fifth to be found in raids in Peninsular Malaysia in less than six months.
The men were arrested after authorities found the carcass of the leopard and a mouse deer at a bus stop near the town of Karak, in the state of Pahang, on the east coast of the country.
Officers from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks who made the discovery also seized two bullets, two mobile phones, a backpack, a machete and a motorcycle from the suspects.
The animals were hunted from a forest near Karak. Markings on the Leopard’s foreleg indicate that the animal was snared—use of snares by poachers is widespread in South-East Asia.
“Subject to the provision of the law, no person shall hunt or keep any totally protected wildlife unless granted a special permit. No person shall also possess or keep, or set, place or use any snare for the purpose of hunting any wildlife,” said Abdul Kadir Hashim, Director for Law Enforcement, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Peninsular Malaysia.
“We urge anyone with information on this case, or of any such incidences to come forward immediately to assist the Department in its effort to protect our wildlife,” he said.
The two are expected to face charges on three counts of illegal hunting under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. If convicted they face a mandatory minimum fine of MYR 200,000 (USD 64,500) and prison sentence that could stretch up to 20 years. The total maximum fines under the charges amount to MYR 1.3 million (USD 419,300). The two men have been remanded to assist with investigations.
“We congratulate the Wildlife Department on this seizure and arrest. Wildlife trafficking syndicates have had a free reign for far too long but over the last year, we have seen a number of significant enforcement actions, including the arrests of people involved in the trade of Tigers, Leopards and ivory,” said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in South-East Asia.
The incident points to a rising and worrying pattern of illegal hunting of Leopards in the country. Five months ago, the Department made another breakthrough bust when they arrested a 40-year old man for smuggling four Leopards and a Tiger from Rantau Panjang, a town near the Thai-Malaysia border. Clear snare markings on all the animals were indicative of the manner in which these animals were caught in the wild.
“The real game-changer now will be solid prosecution, and conviction of wildlife criminals. The penalties meted out by the courts must consider the organised criminality of this business and must bring the full force of the law to bear on them. Paltry sentences do no justice to wildlife lost or to the tireless efforts of wildlife officials who risk their lives hunting down ruthless syndicates,” said Shepherd.