By Elizabeth John
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 14 May 2011 – Wildlife authorities arrested a village headman and seized leopard, bear and dear parts from a freezer in his house in the state of Pahang this morning.
In the 1 am seizure, officers from the Pahang Wildlife and National Parks Department found eight Malayan Sun Bear parts, five Leopard parts, eight whole Lesser Mouse-Deer and seven parts of Common Barking Deer in the house, department Director Khairiah Mohd Shariff told TRAFFIC.
The man’s house, located the town of Bukit Ibam, is close to wildlife-rich jungles on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, about 240 kilometres from the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Khairiah said the suspect had long been on the department’s radar, and a tip-off enabled them to nab him red-handed, with the protected species in his house.
Under Malaysia’s Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, the suspect, who is from an indigenous tribe, has the right to hunt certain protected species for his own sustenance or that of his family. This includes the Lesser Mouse-Deer. However, the Leopard and the Malayan Sun Bear are both totally protected.
The penalty for illegally hunting a bear, is a fine of up to RM100,000 (USD 33,300) or up to three years in jail or both. Those found guilty of illegally hunting a Leopard can be fined between RM100,000 and RM500,000 (USD 166,500) and imprisonment for up to five years – one of the heaviest penalties for offences in Malaysia’s new wildlife law.
This find comes on the heels of several successful raids by the Pahang Wildlife Department, including the seizure of Tiger parts from a restaurant owner in March this year and the arrest of three poachers with snares in April.
In October last year, the same Department caught a couple in the town of Pekan, also in Pahang, for trying to sell a three-month old tiger cub. They had wanted to sell it off for RM30,000 (USD 16, 600).
This seizure of bear parts in this case is significant as it follows the release of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s report which showed that the illegal bear bile trade was rampant in Asia, with Malaysia as one of the countries/territories in which such products were most frequently observed.
“The Wildlife Department in Pahang has again shown their commitment to stamping out illegal wildlife trade. It is only through pro-active efforts such as these that Malaysia’s threatened wildlife will be saved,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Regional Deputy Director Chris Shepherd.
“This recent arrest of a village headman drives home the fact that no one is above the law. TRAFFIC congratulates the Wildlife Department of Pahang for such significant actions,” he said.
Important Note: Photographs from this seizure are not yet available. The photo used to illustrate this article is a TRAFFIC file photo from previous seizures. We hope to share the photos from this seizure as soon as they are available.