Posts Tagged ‘penang’

The Serpent King, Foreign Policy

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

To close out 2010, Foreign Policy asked me for a piece on the Anson Wong case and its implications for international wildlife trade and crime policy.  After spending three years on him for National Geographic (The Kingpin, Jan. 2010) it was a welcome opportunity to reflect on the man, the story, and changes over the past year in Malaysia.  Here’s the Foreign Policy piece (The Serpent King), including some possibly surprising conclusions.  Even if my writing bores you check out these amazing photos…

In Malaysia, to close out 2010, the new Wildlife Conservation Act, which passed in August, has gone into effect, and the wildlife department (PERHILITAN) claims it now has more enforcement officers in the field (though it says that every time there is any mention of wildife trafficking in Malaysia, and never gives supporting figures.)

Penang Wildlife Dept Head Transferred??!!

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The head of Penang’s Wildlife Department has been transferred in the wake of Anson Wong’s being caught smuggling wildlife out of Penang.   Let’s take a moment to look at that action.  The Ministry of Natural Resources and the wildlife department (Perhilitan) transferred the official because he was in charge when Anson filled his suitcase with boa constrictors and rhinoceros vipers (and mata mata turtles) and slipped through airport security.   I’ve been through Penang airport many times.   Like most international airports there is no role for a wildlife department official in the movement of a passenger or his luggage onto a plane.  Checking the person and his luggage are the roles of immigration, customs, and airport security.  There is no reason to target the Penang wildlife department official as a result of Anson’s smuggling in this instance.  (In fact, it’s reasonable to wonder whether Anson hand-carried the snakes rather than ship them because the Penang official was doing his job.)

HOWEVER, since that is the punishment for him, what should be the punishment for the official in charge of Penang during the period of Operation Chameleon, after which Anson Wong confessed to years of smuggling the rarest animals on the planet, most in shipments sent directly from Penang?  It is the job of the wildlife department to inspect those shipments.  But, the Penang official in charge then was not transferred as a result of Anson Wong’s arrest in Mexico.  That official was promoted, not once, but twice, and today is a head of Malaysia’s national Widlife Department!

The Lizard King Inspires Corruption Probe Demand

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Today, a group of Malaysian wildlife organizations and two parliament MPs filed a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) calling for investigation into “irregularities” in the enforcement of wildlife trade in Malaysia.   It is interesting that Anson Wong should admit in US Court (and more recently to The Star) that he committed the years of massive scale illegal trafficking of which he was accused and yet the official in charge of Perhilitan Penang during this same period should deny any responsibility and subsequently be promoted to Perhilitan’s national office.

Here is the press release from SPCA Malaysia followed by press coverage: 


Wildlife Groups File Corruption Complaint

Holding THE LIZARD KING, Wildlife Groups File Corruption Complaint

Illegal Wildlife Trade : Report Lodged With MACC

“Malaysia has been on the world radar screen for the wrong reasons and sadly, it has even extended to the animal kingdom. Closely following the most lucrative illegal global business of drug dealing and trafficking, is the multi-billion ringgit illegal global business of dealing and trafficking in endangered species, in part or in whole, for medicines, food, pleasure and exhibition. Anson Wong, a Malaysian and a convicted felon by the US Courts for trafficking and dealing in endangered wildlife , was featured on the front pages of various press media. The articles highlighted the illegal activities perpetuated by him and his enablers for handsome profits – sometimes right under the noses of the Enforcement department. Anson Wong was also featured as the “Pablo Escobar” in Bryan Christy’s notable book, The Lizard King, that highlights the true stories and intrigue behind this illegal lucrative trade spanning the globe.
“SPCA Selangor together with Animal Rights Groups, ROAR, MAW and Petpositive and MPs of Teluk Intan and Kapar lodged a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) today at their office in Rumah Perseketuan citing irregularities in the enforcement of this illegal trade. SPCA Selangor urges the MACC to investigate these illegal activities that bring immense cruelty, suffering and misery to the wildlife of Malaysia and the world. The mortality rate is high during transportation as the poor animals are stuffed in envelopes, socks, suitcases, plastic tubes and other tight spaces to avoid detection. Animals that survive face further pain and misery as they are sold for consumption, kept in zoos, or sold as exotic pets. This is a rape of our God-given heritage, an exploitation of the voiceless to satify greed. Malaysians are becoming more aware of such felonies and also more appreciative of better animal welfare.
“At the Press Conference, Animals Rights Groups, SPCA Selangor and the 2 MPS urged the government to embark on a Royal Commission of Inquiry to unearth the truth and mete out the punishment for violators of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, while improving enforcement to eliminate the cruelty clearly inherent in this business.”   

The Star

August 15, 2009

Deputy D-G: Someone had to take care of Wong’s animals


KUALA LUMPUR: Special permits issued by Perhilitan to Anson Wong when he was in jail were actually renewals of existing permits that had been given to the convicted wildlife trafficker.

Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) deputy director-general Misliah Mohamad Bashir explained that the renewals were approved because “someone had to take care of (Wong’s) animals” while he served time in a US jail between 2001 and 2004.

The application for renewal of the permits to keep totally protected species was made by a local representative of Wong, said Misliah in response to calls by a group of animal rights activists and two MPs for an investigation into alleged corrupt practices within Perhilitan.

They filed reports with the the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday, urging the MACC to probe allegations of Perhilitan’s link with Wong made by author Bryan Christy in his book The Lizard King.

The book details Wong’s exploits in the 1990s prior to his arrest by the US wildlife authorities in 1998.

Misliah denied any involvement in the issuance of special permits to Wong, as such permits could only be issued by the Perhilitan director-general and she was state Perhilitan director in Penang at that time.

The complainants are animals rights groups Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruetly against Animals, Malaysian Animal Welfare Society (MAW), Malaysian Animal Rights Society (ROAR) and Pet Positive. The MPs are S. Manikavasagam (Kapar) and M. Manogaran (Teluk Intan).

They also urged the Government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the matter.

Following Monday’s Starprobe exposé on Malaysia as a wildlife trafficking hub, the animal rights group said Perhilitan’s action in renewing Wong’s special permits was questionable.

Lawyer and ROAR president R. Surendran said Wong’s special permits covered among others two cougars which were later declared to have died.

“Did Misliah check whether those animals were dead? Or could they have been smuggled out?” he asked.

Misliah, when asked whether she had seen the carcasses, said she had relied on her staff to “check and report back to her.”

On Wong’s tigers, she said he had a special permit to keep two female tigers that he acquired from Japan and the cats had mated with tigers owned by Sunway Lagoon theme park in Selangor.



August 14, 2009 21:31 PM

Department Denies Giving Permit To Illegal Wildlife Trader

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 (Bernama) — The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) has refuted claims that it had accepted bribes and approved special permits to illegal wildlife trader Anson Wong Keng Liang to carry out his activities in the country.

Deputy Director-General Misliah Mohamad Basir said the special permit issued to Wong in 1999 was to allow him to keep legally-acquired animals in his mini zoo in Bukit Jambul, Penang.

The permit was for keeping eight crocodiles, two “felis concolor” cougars and a Cuban ground iguana which he bought overseas using legal documents, she said.

“The permit was for him to keep the animals in his sanctuary and not to export or trade them,” he told Bernama.

She said that the allegation connecting her and the department with corrupt practices was “a serious and a very bad allegation.”

She was commenting on reports lodged by several non-government organisations to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, claiming that special permits were issued to Wong to carry out his activities here when she was the Penang Perhilitan director.

Misliah said she was surprised over the attempts to connect her with the permits as the permits were signed by the then Perhilitan Director-General Datuk Musa Nordin.

“I would like to stress that the issuance of the permit was not wrong as he had been keeping the animal for quite sometime. When we were told that he had been arrested in the United States, should we seize the animals which he had obtained legally?” she asked.

She added that the special permits were renewable on a yearly basis so long as the animals were alive.