LIZARD KING Sparks Call for Law Enforcement Inquiry in Malaysia

A letter running today in Malaysia’s NST written by the Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia uses THE LIZARD KING to call for more investigation by the country’s wildlife department, Perhilitan.   As you know, LIZARD KING is the true story of Special Agent Chip Bepler’s heroic effort to take down an international reptile smuggling syndicate.  The work of Ms. Abdullah, TRAFFIC, and others to stop illegal trade is the ongoing, living version of that heroic tale…

“Wildlife trade: Take a close look, Perhilitan”

By : Azrina Abdullah, Regional director, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia
New Straits Times, October 1

“I REFER to your report “Malaysian who loved his wildlife” by Elizabeth John (NST, Sept 21) and the letter from Bryan Christy of Philadelphia (“Facts tell the tale of book’s intentions” — NST, Sept 26) on the reaction of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) to his book, The Lizard King.  Traffic, a non-governmental organisation that monitors the wildlife trade, is heartened by NST’s feature on the issue of illegal wildlife trade, a crime which many do not consider serious.

Christy’s book provides an introduction to the murky world of illegal reptile-dealing. Perhaps the most shocking part of this account to local readers is the revelation that one of the world’s largest illegal dealers is a Malaysian operating from Penang. He had boasted to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s undercover agent that he could obtain the horn of the Sumatran rhino, a protected species under Malaysian law.

However, Perhilitan has deemed the book to be a work of fiction, challenging its integrity and reputation.

Traffic recognises Perhilitan’s efforts in taking affirmative steps in saving Malaysia’s wildlife, including the review of the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 (Peninsular Malaysia) and the introduction of the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2007.

Perhilitan is also yielding positive results in its enforcement efforts to combat wildlife crime, as seen by a number of successful seizures and prosecutions over the past 12 months. It is also a member of the largest wildlife enforcement network in the world, the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-Wen).

Traffic applauds the response from the Royal Malaysian Customs to investigate its officers, if any, implicated by Anson Wong, and hopes that Perhilitan would take similar steps to investigate the involvement, if any, of its officers who had signed paperwork enabling Wong to export illegally-obtained wildlife.

This would demonstrate to the public that Perhilitan is serious about weeding out corrupt officers.

Perhilitan also stated that “due to the strategic location surrounded by rich biodiversity countries, Malaysia is the best target used as a transit point to smuggle animals”.

While Malaysia’s location may make it convenient for illegal wildlife traders, it seems tragic to accept that we are a hub for illegal traders simply because of an accident of geography.

Porous borders will always be a challenge to countries fighting smuggling activities.

However, it must be for those in a position of authority to do all they can to ensure that illegal traders and corrupt officers do not escape unpunished.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “LIZARD KING Sparks Call for Law Enforcement Inquiry in Malaysia”

  1. Azrina Abdullah Says:

    Dear Mr. Christy,
    I would first like to thank you for putting my review of your excellent book, The Lizard King, and the letter published by New Straits Times on your website. The book has provided a very comprehensive insight into the illegal wildlife trade which many, including enforcement authorities, do not consider as serious as other types of crime.

    I am pleased to inform you that your book will be used during our training workshops in the Southeast Asia region. Our trainings are specifically focused to enhance the skills and knowledge of those in the front line, protecting our region’s wildlife. The book will add to the training materials we have developed as a real case study of the illegal wildlife trade.
    I would also like to thank you for writing the book. This is an important book and my office has sent copies of your book to selected enforcement agencies in the region for their attention. So far, we have received very positive feedback from them. They enjoyed the book!

    Congratulations and well done!

    With very best wishes,
    Azrina Abdullah
    Regional Director
    TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

  2. TP Chung Says:

    Dear Bryan

    I read your website with great interest and look forward to reading your book, The Lizard King. As a Malaysian, I am drawn to the two articles posted on your website written by Ms. Azrina Abdullah, the Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia based in Malaysia.

    The issue of animal trafficking in Malaysia has always been downplayed in the media. Whenever a “once-in-a-blue-moon” reporting of animal trafficking appears in the local media, it is normally followed by a call from civil society for stronger and pro-active enforcement.

    I was however pleased to note that Ms. Azrina’s comment in the NST (as posted on your site) triggers and advocates for action to be taken by authorities to investigate the inside activities that encourages the illegal trade of endangered animals. Fruitful partnerships between TRAFFIC (and other wildlife related NGOs, etc) and the local authorities should be encouraged. They should work together, utilizing their individual comparative advantage for the benefit of society.

    I sincerely hope that your book and the pro-activeness of TRAFFIC under its current leadership will spur stronger and sustained enforcement to clamp down illegal animal trafficking activities in Malaysia.

    I definitely look forward to reading your book (“The shadowy world of illegal wildlife trading is laid bare in this non-fiction book that reads like a thriller” – Ms. Azrina Abdullah) to enhance my knowledge on the issue. I wish you the best and I am thankful to Ms. Azrina Abdullah for a job well done and for taking the initiative to rectify an important (but neglected) area of development in the country.

    Best regards
    TP Chung

  3. Bryan Christy » Blog Archive » Ministry of Ouroboros Says:

    [...] to letters written to the New Straits Times newspaper after the paper ran a series of stories and letters on The Lizard King.  To summarize events so far, the NST profiled me and the book; the Malaysian [...]