New Wildlife Law, But Old Wildlife Department

Last week, Malaysian Customs officers stopped a pair of low-level smugglers coming into the country from Madagascar.  Instead of capitalizing on the fresh energy and goodwill of the country’s new wildlife law (and a successful Customs stop) by announcing an investigation into a longstanding Malaysian smuggling syndicate operating in Madagascar,  Perhilitan’s Law Enforcement Principal Assistant Director Loo Kean Seong  has announced that either Madagascar pay for the endangered animals’ return, or the animals will be euthanized, or sold.   

While this may be technically correct as a matter of CITES law, Loo goes on to say that Perhilitan cannot spend public money on conserving species that are not from Malaysia.  This policy of refusing to protect non-native species is what has helped make Malaysia a wildlife smuggler’s paradise.  The statement is inconsistent with Malaysia’s CITES obligations, not to mention the principles behind the country’s new law.

Those who supported Malaysia’s new wildlife law hoped that Perhilitan would finally have the tools it said it needed to stop major wildlife traffickers.  Instead, Loo’s comments indicate Malaysian wildlife kingpins may have it better than ever:  They have a new law with the appearance of teeth, and nobody willing to enforce it.   On the other hand, WWF takes a cheerier view of things here, making the valid point that this is a perfect scenario for ASEAN-WEN to get involved.  As is widely known, for years endangered Malagasy reptiles have been smuggled directly to Malaysia and via Bangkok… 

Story, from The Star:

Take back animals, Madagascar told

By LESTER KONG, 17 July 2010

PETALING JAYA: Madagascar must take back the animals that have been smuggled into Malaysia from that island, the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) said.

A last option for the department if Madagascar refused to take back the animals was to “euthanise” them, its legal and enforcement principal assistant director Loo Kean Seong said.

Loo said the department had written to the country to bear the costs of returning the animals, estimated to be between RM10,000 and RM15,000.

“We have contacted the authorities there under provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for them to take back the animals.

“We have not determined the actual cost of repatriating the animals to Madagascar. It depends on the total weight but the cost is less because there is no need to hold them in special cages,” he said here yesterday.

The animals, estimated to cost a total of RM250,000, were brought into Malaysia in hand luggages by two Madagascar women.

The wildlife, comprising 369 Radiated Tortoises, five Madagascar Tortoises, 47 Tomato Frogs and several chameleons, are being kept at Perhilitan’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur since they were seized by the Customs Department on Wednesday.

Loo said that if Madagascar refused to accept the animals, Perhilitan, as the management authority, would have to look into ways of disposing the animals.

He said releasing them into the wild in Malaysia was out of the question because they were not native to the country’s ecosystem.

“They will create problems and threaten our ecosystems. It will not be wise for conservation purposes if we introduce them into Malaysia,” said Loo.

He added that the country could not spend public money on conserving species that were not from the country and could not be introduced into the ecosystem here.

“Under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act, the management authority is allowed to sell the animals if this is deemed a suitable move and the proceeds given to the Government,” he said.

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