Tag Archives: pet trade

From 8am to 5pm …

Posted on 19 September 2011 – 05:00am Azrina Abdullah

WHAT a busy few months it has been for Malaysia as it has yet again been pushed into the international wildlife spotlight. Aside from 1,764 elephant tusks seized by customs since July in Johor, Penang and Selangor (bad), there was also the rescue of animals this month from deplorable conditions in two Johor zoos after years of pressure from NGOs (good).

In addition, there was a troubling find of 12 snares in August near the East-West Highway, and other evidence to suggest that the Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve is increasingly becoming a poacher’s haven, including those from Thailand and Cambodia (bad).

Much has been said about the lack of enforcement where wildlife is concerned because it is not a priority and in most cases, budget is sorely lacking to ensure enforcement officers have adequate resources to do their job well.

And after each criticism, the agencies always respond to say they have beefed up border controls and increased patrols across the peninsula. Then I read the response of Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) state director for Perak on the comment by two NGOs that her enforcement personnel had slackened in their patrols of the Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve.

She stated that this comment was not true because her officers patrol the East-West Highway points from 8am to 5pm every day. Yes, you read that right – 8am to 5pm. Is there something wrong with this statement? Does the director think poachers only hunt during office hours? If I was a poacher, this is a too good to be true statement – enter the forest after 5pm because no officers will catch me.

I am praying that this is a misquote by the reporter as it sends a despairing message to those working to save the Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve that Perhilitan is not serious about protecting our precious wildlife.

It does make you wonder how this matches with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry’s statements over the years that it has “increased patrols, beefed up security and enforcement staff”. If 8am-5pm patrols are what the ministry meant by “increased patrols”, it is no surprise that poaching in Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve is worsening.

The director also defended her department by saying the forest reserve is under the jurisdiction of the state, and not the department. Therefore, there are restrictions to what her officers can do. More excuses.

Perhilitan has mentioned repeatedly that the public plays an important role in providing enforcement agencies information on illegal wildlife activities.

What good would it do if we keep providing information but no action is taken because state and federal agencies cannot work together?

Granted that there are matters which the state and federal agencies cannot see eye-to-eye but will the issue of jurisdiction be the end of the Belum-Temengor Forest and its inhabitants as armed foreign poachers continue to pillage our biodiversity?

Their intrusion also poses a threat to our national security?

Azrina Abdullah is conducting research on the links between indigenous groups and the wildlife trade. Comments: [email protected]

Owls poached for exotic meat market


Tuesday September 13, 2011

[email protected]

A black hole of information surrounds the illegal trade in owls.

ARE our owls being poached for the dinner table? It would appear so, judging from huge seizures of dead birds in recent years by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

In November 2008, a raid in Muar, Johor, unveiled a mountain of 917 plucked owls, along with a stash of pythons, mouse deer, pangolins and various other protected species.

Two months later, in January 2009, 319 more owl carcasses were uncovered alongside 2,330 live clouded monitor lizards and a chopped up Malayan sun bear in a car repair shop in Kuantan, Pahang.


Main course: A collared scops owl. — Pic by Puan Chong Leong

The show wasn’t over. There were two more seizures in Johor that year: one yielded 37 owls in Yong Peng in July and another yielded 246 owls in Endau, in September.

Altogether, the period of 2008 to 2009 saw the biggest seizure of owls ever recorded in the country, a total of 1,519 carcasses. The seizures caught wildlife officials by surprise. There have been no indicators of local demand for owl consumption, and until those reports surfaced, large-scale trading of owls in Malaysia had completely escaped the radar.

“Local restaurants have been known to offer bear, fruit bats, deer, monitor lizards, turtles … it’s a long list, but we haven’t seen owls on offer,” says Traffic South-East Asia deputy regional director Chris Shepherd.

“We weren’t even looking at owls. We really hadn’t heard of people harvesting owl at all in Malaysia, and suddenly there was almost a thousand of them seized (in the Muar case).”


Magnificent: A brown wood owl. In Malaysia, owls are poorly studied and it is feared that they are being hunted for the exotic meat trade. — Pic by Chris Shepherd

Shepherd brings up the question of whether trade could have previously gone undetected.

Both Traffic and Perhilitan suspect the owls, along with the other wildlife confiscated, were due for export, probably to China which, despite local and international laws, has a thriving trade in endangered wildlife.

Malaysia is both an attractive supply and transit country, and many of the species found including pangolins and bear parts for example, are popular in the meat and traditional medicine markets of China, especially in Guangzhou.

There, an increasingly affluent population is fuelling demand for endangered wildlife traditionally regarded as culinary delicacies.


An immature barred eagle owl. — Pic by Puan Chong Leong

There are news reports of owls being among the many wildlife items served in restaurants in Guangzhou.

“It really does warrant further investigation,” says Shepherd, adding that funding limits what conservationists can do, and therefore, hardly any work has been conducted to investigate the extent of owl consumption in China’s meat markets.

Many unknowns

After the flurry of seizures however, it seems the trail has run cold. A black hole of information surrounds the issue of poaching of wild owls.

Some of the culprits in the illegal trade have been penalised, however.

In the Muar case, one man was fined RM21,000 under four charges for cruelty to wildlife and illegal possession of 10 species, some protected, some totally protected and one immature protected animal.


Wildlife ecologist Puan Chong Leong will embark on a study on owl ecology. In front of him is a stuffed specimen of a collared scops owl from 1979, part of the Museum of Zoology’s collection at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Similar charges were laid upon one man in the Yong Peng case, who was fined RM6,000, another in the Endau case, who was fined RM5,000, and yet another in the Kuantan case, who was fined RM3,000 for each charge, plus a one-month jail sentence to run concurrently.

Pahang Perhilitan director Khairiah Shariff was surprised with the first seizure as no one had heard of owl poaching before. Until now, she still has no idea where the birds came from and whether the trade has been going on, undetected.

The man arrested in Kuantan was 33, a sub-contractor and possibly a bystander. Like all the other men arrested, he would not reveal who “owned” the animals. The man arrested in the Muar case revealed that he had been collecting wildlife from locals and orang asli in Segamat and the Pahang border for the past five or six years prior to his arrest.

Barn owls formed the bulk of the seizures, making up 796 of the 917 birds confiscated in Muar. The species is commonly distributed throughout plantations across the peninsula. Other species seized included 95 spotted wood owls, 14 buffy fish owls, eight barred eagle owls, and four brown wood owls.

Could these have been taken from any of the millions of hectares of oil palm estate throughout Malaysia where, thanks to the building of nest boxes by planters to encourage the birds to breed and act as biological pest control agents, barn owls have grown in numbers?

One article published earlier this year in The Planter, a publication by the Incorporated Society of Planters, raised the possibility that barn owls might be taken directly from nest boxes or caught in nets set up across forest clearings.

However, officials at two big oil palm plantation companies, Kulim (Malaysia) Berhad and Sime Darby Plantation, say no anomalies in the number of barn owls present on their estates have been reported.

“It’s hard to say who are catching the owls,” says Shepherd. “It could be people who are working in the plantations themselves, or people employed by wildlife dealers to go after the birds. If you ask that about pangolins, or freshwater turtles or cobra, then yes they are.”

Shepherd explains how wildlife plunder generally happens all over the region: “In a rural area, there will be agents there willing to buy wild animals from you. But is this the situation with owls? We don’t know.”

It is difficult to say whether people should be worried about Malaysia’s owls, seeing little is known of them. However, Shepherd thinks if the trade is like what was seen in 2008 and 2009, and continues undetected, it can have a serious impact on wild owl populations.

“Owls are top predators, so they play a really important role. Generally they require a large territory and the habitat requirements for some species are a lot more specialised than others. And as for any species that occurs in low densities, wiping them out is much easier than those which occur in higher densities.”

Resources to investigate the trade in wild meat is now channelled to higher priority species, such as tigers and bears. So the trade in owls remain ignored.

“Very few people know about Malaysia’s owls and because of that, even fewer would care, and that should change. A lot of countries have an owl trust, or research and monitoring groups, but we don’t have that. Although there’s a growing interest in bird watching and bird conservation, it hasn’t gotten to the point where it is of benefit to the owls yet.”

Over two years have passed since the 2008 and 2009 seizures, and questions still remain. Is it still happening? Exactly how big is the industry, and was that just the tip of an iceberg? Unfortunately, it looks like we are unlikely to be receiving answers any time soon.

Related Story:
Scoping the owl

The Story of Fulung Part 3


Fulung finally arrived at BSBCC at 10 pm on August 15th after a long 7 hours on the road from Lok Kawi Zoo. He appeared to be healthy and active, but a bit skinny and malnourish by weighing only 7.8 kg. He was considered under weight of a male sun bear cub of his age. His forehead has a patch of scar from rubbing against the bamboo and wooden cage where he used to be kept. All of his canines were not grown and other permanent teeth were not fully grown. All of these signs indicated malnourish and imbalanced diet, a common condition among the most of the captive sun bear cubs we have come across. The malnourishment resulted from the lack of sufficient knowledge on caring infants or cubs and most important lack of bear’s milk to feed the bear infant or cub that is high in protein and fat.

Fulung's condition slowly improve on a daily basis. He is a playful sun bear!

Fulung's condition slowly improve on a daily basis. He is a playful sun bear!

Fulung exploring the new climbing structure in his den.

Fulung exploring the new climbing structure in his den.

Fulung settle down slowly at BSBCC. We place him at a quarantine cage for 30 days to ensure that he is healthy and free from any diseases. During these 30 days he will have no contact with other bears. The first few days he was showing signs of stress, nerves, and fear in the totally new surroundings. He would calm down when we were around to play and to attain him. However, when we were not around, he would cry out and roar loudly to seek people’s attention. We tried our best to stay with him and play with him as much as we could. After several days, his condition improved. He seems to getting more relax and confidence to the new environment and play a lot by himself with the enrichments and toys that we gave him. He did not cry nor roar like before. His appetite greatly improved and also gained weight on a steady pace.

Fulung enjoying his new bed- a hammock, but he destroyed it few hours :( Well, that's what sun bear do best- destroyed!

Fulung enjoying his new bed- a hammock, but he destroyed it few hours 🙁 Well, that's what sun bear do best- destroyed!

Fulung is growing well, very well indeed. He is now 15 kg, almost doubled his weight since he came here almost a month ago. The scar of his head healed and hair slowly growing back. He is very playful and stays active most of the day. He usually plays by himself except when he was taking nap. We hope Fulung will grow healthy and big. Soon we will walk him in the forest.

Fulung eyed on his new bed high up on his den.

Fulung eyed on his new bed high up on his den.

New bed! High on top of his den.

New bed! High on top of his den.

 Fulung slept on his hammock made from towel when he was in his temporary cage.

Fulung slept on his hammock made from towel when he was in his temporary cage.

This is what he did to me when I woke him up!

This is what he did to me when I woke him up!

The story of Fulung – Part 2

Photos credit: Colleen Tan 



Very cute sun bear baby’s photos.

Yes, Fulung the sun bear cub is VERY cute!

NO! You cannot keep a sun bear baby as pet! Please report to the authority if you see any illegal sun bears being kept as pets.


In the next few days, many phone calls and emails were made among BSBCC, Sabah Wildlife Department, Colleen and her boss Md Eleanor Wong. The plan is to rescue Fulung and bring him to BSBCC. Nooh, the owner of Fulung, also came down to Kota Kinabalu the capital of Sabah, to deal with the surrender of the sun bear cub and the paper work needed for such surrender.

On August 10th, a rescue operation was organized by the Wildlife Rescue Unit of the Sabah Wildlife Department. Colleen, Nooh and the Sabah Wildlife Department Veterinarial, Dr Rosa, were in the team. They started their journey from Lok Kawi Zoological Garden near Kota Kinabalu around 10 am to Long Pasia. After a quick lunch at Sipitang, a small cowboy town closest to Long Pasir, the team continued their journey. While at Sipitang, Nooh heard from his brother saying that Fulung nearly die in Long Pasia because Fulung “missed” his owner so much to a point that was not eating any food for 3 days. Nooh’s son who was in Long Pasia told Fulung, “father in KK and fulung eat a bit, a bit :-P. The father in KK always woke up at 4am thinking of Fulung” This was real story I was told !!!

The journey from Kota Kinabalu to Long Pasir took about 6 hours on bad dirt road that was bumpy and slow.

The journey from Kota Kinabalu to Long Pasir took about 6 hours on bad dirt road that was bumpy and slow.

The team arrived at Long Pasia around 5.30 pm, Coleen witnessed the entire process. According to Coleen, it was “so touching……..kind of feeling, Fulung & Nooh. I don’t believe that happen to a bear and a man until I saw in real when Nooh took and hug Fulung at the little house in the paddy field & walk together, end in the trans-location cage. Attached photos tell more 🙂 ”

19 Fulung to cage

29 Fulung in cage

32 Goodbye Fulung1

After a quick rest at Nooh’s homestay for hot coffee and chit chat, the rescue team and Coleen left Long Pasia around 8 pm. Nooh said good bye to Fulung and told Fulung to be a good bear when he moved to the new place soon. There will be a new owner taking care of him. The rescue team rested at Sipitang town at 11.45 pm. Fulung has 2 pack soya drink. Finally Fulung and the rescue team reached Lok Kawi Zoo at 2 am where he stayed for few days to do some medical check up and observation before he was sent to BSBCC.

Nooh say goodbye to Fulung

Nooh say goodbye to Fulung





To be continue…

Stay tuned!

The story of Fulung – Part I

Photos credit: Colleen Tan 



Very cute sun bear baby’s photos.

Yes, Fulung the sun bear cub is VERY cute!

NO! You cannot keep a sun bear baby as pet! Please report to the authority if you see any illegal sun bears being kept as pets.


In early August I was informed that there was a sun bear baby being kept as a pet by a villager in Long Pasir, a remote small village located at southern most Sabah, close to the Sarawak boarder. After several phone calls, I was managed to communicate with Colleen Tan, a tourism coordinator for Long Pasir who visited the village on a regular basis. From her conversation and emails, I got to know the story of Fulung a lot better. Here is what Colleen wrote to me about Fulung the sun bear cub:

“An interesting story about a male sun bear from Long Pasia named FULUNG (Lundayeh Language) which mean “hutan” in Malay or forest. Last year 01 December 2010, I was there at the homestay first saw the baby sun bear  (age 2 months) I was told that the sun bear was rescued from the hunting dog in the Long Pasia jungle. The baby sun bear was seriously injured. The hunter brought back to home and feed it, care it, maybe they use traditional medicine, until recovery today, as you can see from the photos i took & attached herewith.



The baby sun bear is very cute and roar at midnight, morning, afternoon & evening for milk, During his 3 months, can run and chase people in the family and very naughty. Not always in the cage but free to run outside in the house, play, and bath. It roars at stranger (visitor) for a while but then friendly. It seem that he knew the family member. The family called him FULUNG he recognized 🙂


During my visit to Long Pasia in January, February & May 2011, I took many photos of FULUNG. The sun bear is growing bigger and bigger and need more food. He will complaint if the porridge mixed with normal water and no sugar added in. He wanted rice + warm water + sugar, just like honey rice. They feed the baby sun bear with Dutch Lady & Nespray powder milk, banana, rice + warm water + sugar. I gave him mandarin orange and feed him banana. He plays the ball and sleep well and roar again when hungry. What a cute sun bear, living happily with the family?! But still belong to the forest.



The family wanted to put back to the forest after few months but think of him will be back to home looking for them, and worried about others hunter, so they decided to treat him as a pet for the time being. Although other visitor offer to buy the sun bear for what purpose I don’t know, but the family don’t want to sell, worried if the sun bear being killed for certain part of the body.”


To be continue…

Stay tuned!  



Man held for keeping exotic pets

Original posted at http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/08bear/Article

KUANTAN: A villager may have to pay a high price for his passion for exotic pets and sheer ignorance of wildlife law.

The odd-job worker, in his 50s, was arrested on Thursday by a team from the state Wildlife and National Parks Department for having a Malayan sun bear at his home in Kampung Padang Jaya here.

He also faces a maximum fine of RM50,000 or two years’ imprisonment or both, for keeping various species of protected birds at his home.

The team raided his house following a tip-off.

State Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said during the raid, Perhilitan officers found a female sun bear kept in a cage outside his house.

They also found seven murai batu (white-rumped shama), two burung daun (leafbirds) and a burung punai (emerald dove).

The white-rumped shama birds were kept in a big cage while others were placed in individual cages. A pair of deer antlers was also found in the house.

It was understood that the man had been keeping the sun bear as a pet since five years ago.

The man claimed he had been keeping the exotic birds as a hobby.

He claimed he did not know that it was an offence to keep them as pets.

Khairiah said the man might be charged under the recently-amended Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which provided for stiffer penalties for offenders.

She said the department was concerned that many people were still unaware of the amendments to the act as many people had been found to be keeping protected animals, including civet cats and squirrels.

She reminded the public to contact the department if they were unsure of the status of the animals as “the department will not compromise with such offences”.

There are 2,120 protected endangered species and sub-species under the new law, with several non-endangered animals, such as wild boar and monkeys, also protected to preserve the natural habitat.

The amendment also provides for stiffer penalties, including mandatory jail up to five years and a fine between RM100,000 and RM500,000 for offences involving protected wildlife such as tigers, rhinoceros, serows (a type of goat), gaur (seladang), leopards, clouded leopards and false gharial (a type of freshwater crocodile).


Original posted at http://sandakantours.blogspot.com/2011/08/blog-post_09.html

Text: Jasmine Soon Yean





From jungle to suitcase, Southeast Asia’s wildlife faces a bleak future

Repost from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/from-jungle-to-suitcase-southeast-asias-wildlife-faces-a-bleak-future/story-e6frg6z6-1226108592780

From jungle to suitcase, Southeast Asia’s wildlife faces a bleak future

  • Sian Powell
  • From: The Australian
  • August 06, 2011 12:00AM
Rescued panther

A panther seized from luggage at Bangkok airport. Picture: AFP/Ho/Freeland Foundation Source: AFP

FOUR leopard cubs, a sunbear cub, a marmoset and a baby gibbon: just some of the menagerie found in suitcases at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

Hundreds of protected Indian and Burmese star tortoises, again found in baggage at the airport. A bear farm in Laos, where bear bile was routinely extracted for human health tonics, finally closed down by the authorities. Unregistered leopards found at a rural Thai tiger zoo long suspected of trafficking big cats. A truck in northeastern Thailand found to be carrying five boxes of monitor lizards, 17 boxes of pythons and 84 boxes of rat snakes. Two Vietnamese men arrested for killing 15 langurs in a national park.

These events of only the past few months represent a tiny slice of the vast Asian wildlife trade in poaching, smuggling and dealing in protected species and their organs, flesh, bones, skin and scales. The trade is huge, feeding a rapacious appetite for traditional medicines made from endangered species, as well as a hunger for ivory ornaments, wild meat and exotic pets.

Late last year, in an unguarded moment, a Vietnamese government official estimated that between 4000 and 4500 tonnes of wildlife were smuggled through Vietnam each year. Washington-based research and advocacy group Global Financial Integrity, using information provided by conservation groups Traffic and WWF, earlier this year said the illegal trade in wildlife generated up to $US10 billion ($9.3bn) annually. This pushes it into the top rank of illicit global markets, after counterfeiting and illegal trafficking in drugs, humans and oil.

Small scaly pangolins, which are eaten and used in traditional medicines, were until fairly recently heavily traded to China from Mekong nations, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Now, wildlife experts say, pangolins have become difficult to find in the Mekong region and the tiny frozen carcasses are more commonly sent from south Sumatra in Indonesia, Malaysia and The Philippines. Thailand, though, remains a hub for the illicit trade, with networks funnelling live and dead animals and animal parts to eager purchasers.

Last year, an Interpol probe, Operation Tram, zeroed in on traditional medicines that used ingredients from protected species. Australian seizures during the operation included hippopotamus penises and more than 100 boxes of bear bile. Two-thirds of illegal wildlife and wildlife product seizures in Australia (of a total 4014 seizures last year) are traditional medicines containing ingredients from endangered species.

Justin Gosling, a criminal intelligence officer with Interpol’s environmental crime program, says wildlife crime must become a priority.

“Until five years ago, wildlife crime was not considered a big deal by enforcement agencies,” Gosling says. “Drugs and terrorism are seen as more important, but environmental crime is a far greater danger to communities.”

Police need to track the traders, arrest them, seize their mobile phones, retrieve all the numbers and arrest more people in the network, he believes. But corruption is rife, and the wildlife trade is widely seen by the criminal classes as low risk and a good earner.

Gosling says police across the region need to refocus their efforts on the wholesalers, rather than the poachers or transporters, who often escape prosecution and, even if convicted, are given lenient penalties. “Meanwhile, the big guys are still sitting in their luxury apartments,” he says.

Environment laws are regularly flouted across Asia. In Vietnam, it’s illegal to sell bears, to transport bears, to hunt bears and to extract bear bile. Yet bear bile tourism to Vietnam continues to flourish. Many people believe the bile, particularly that from wild bears, can cure numerous ailments.

A recent report by the wildlife trade monitoring organisation Traffic found the bile of up to 3000 bears held by 750 Vietnamese bear farms was regularly extracted for tourists and other consumers. Bears are kept in farms for years on end, their bile extracted via a catheter or a permanent fistula or they are simply knocked out and their bile is removed. It is then imbibed by coachloads of tourists in search of a pick-me-up.

Bears are strong animals, Gosling says, otherwise the practice would kill them more quickly. In any case, the bear bile trade is one of the longest lasting cruelties in the repertoire of traditional medicine. And although the bears are kept on farms, that doesn’t mean they form a self-sustaining population. The Traffic report found only four of the 34 bear farms visited by the researchers had captive breeding programs.

Chris Shepherd, deputy regional director for Southeast Asia at Traffic, fears Asian wildlife has a bleak future.

He is overseeing a training session for Suvarnabhumi airport staff to learn how to recognise smuggled ivory. The lessons are bearing fruit: there have been several ivory seizures at the airport in recent months.

The illegal wildlife trade, Shepherd says, is thriving. “It’s not a pretty picture,” he says, citing tigers as an example. “They’re being absolutely hammered. We’ve lost so many tigers over the past couple of years. Anywhere there are tigers, there are people trying to kill them. Here in Southeast Asia, it’s the meat and bones. It’s something rare, something illegal; it’s impressive if you eat it. It’s worth a lot of money.”

The trade is pervasive. Thai tiger farms have been nabbed illegally selling surplus cubs; tiger-bone glue, made from bones that have been boiled, dried and ground into a powder, is a popular medicine in Vietnam; Chinese tiger farms reportedly serve “king meat” and tiger-bone wine in on-site restaurants. Gosling says Vietnam, China, Thailand and probably Burma and Laos have tiger farms or tiger parks that foster the trade in body parts.

Shepherd says it is too easy to trap animals. “Snaring animals is cheap, it’s the cost of the price of wire,” he adds. “It’s a brake cable for a snare. Dealers will often tell customers the birds or animals are captive-bred. But they’re very often not. It’s expensive to keep and breed animals in captivity; it’s much easier to catch them.”

Like Gosling, Shepherd thinks the key to putting a dent in the rampant trade is enforcement.

“I think people just don’t care. But they would care if they were in jail for five or 10 years and had time to think about it. Sure, I think we should keep educating the consumers, encouraging acceptable substitutes. But if you don’t treat it as a crime, it’s not going to change.”

In more central city markets, such as those in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, the illegal wildlife trade has been pushed underground. But the flourishing border markets, which Shepherd monitors, are notorious for their large and varied wildlife trade.

“It’s a free-for-all,” Shepherd says bleakly. “The last time I was in Mong La [a town on the China-Burma border], they brought a bear cub out. They killed it and took its gall bladder out. I took photos.”

Meanwhile, in Thailand, police colonel Kiattipong Khasam-Ang says he believes nearly all tiger parks in Thailand illegally sell cubs. Each cub fetches about 400,000 baht, or $12,500, depending on weight. Last year undercover police pretended to be from Thailand’s anti-government red-shirt movement and negotiated the purchase of a cub. Its blood, the undercover officers told the traders, would be used for a ritual. The traders were arrested, the cub saved. Recently environmental crime division officers announced they had arrested another Thai man in connection with the case.

The protected wildlife trade is worth a lot of money, he says, and the main criminal figures could be difficult to pin down.

“We have some names of Mr Bigs in Thailand,” Kiattipong adds. “One owns a tiger farm; she knows she is being investigated. Our work is ongoing.”

In recent years Chinese medicine has become a substantial field in Australia and degrees in Chinese medicine have even been introduced in some Australian universities. All practitioners have to be registered and Lin Tzi Chiang, president of the Federation of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Societies of Australia, says close to $200 million worth of traditional Chinese medicine and ingredients are imported into Australia each year. But, he says, threatened species form no part of those medicines.

Even so, each year Australian Customs officers seize thousands of bottles and packages of traditional medicines made from threatened species ingredients – meat, blood, skin, bile, and bone – as well as protected plant species. And these ingredients mostly come from Asia.

In Vietnam, environmentalists worry about the silence of the northern forests. A few years ago, Indonesian traders sent 25 tonnes of freshwater turtles to China each week, to be sold as food with medicinal properties. Now, conservationists say, there are too few remaining turtles to make the poaching worthwhile.

Police general Misakawan Buara, who commands a force of 470 staff at the Royal Thai Police division of natural resources and environment crime, has a fair idea who some of the big illegal wildlife traders are in Thailand, but he won’t name names.

“I cannot tell you, I don’t have proof. It’s very hard to catch people like that. I suspect [them], but maybe I will lose [in court].” He knows trading and poaching has reached alarming levels across the nation. “If we keep going like this, some time soon in Thailand there will be no animals.”







How to fight organized wildlife crime in East Asia

Repost from http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0727-hance_wildlifecrime_seasia.html

How to fight organized wildlife crime in East Asia
Jeremy Hance
July 27, 2011

 Slow lorises, like these caged individuals, are imperiled in Southeast Asia for the illegal pet trade. In the wild, traders kill loris parents to take their babies. Pet lorises have their teeth pulled out to make them appear 'cuter'. Photo courtesy of the Wildlife Conservaiton Society (WCS).
Slow lorises, like these caged individuals, are imperiled in Southeast Asia for the illegal pet trade. In the wild, traders kill loris parents to take their babies. Pet lorises have their teeth pulled out to make them appear ‘cuter’. Photo courtesy of the Wildlife Conservaiton Society (WCS).

Organized criminal syndicates are wiping out some of the world’s most charismatic wildlife to feed a growing appetite for animal parts in East Asia#8212;and so far governments and law enforcement are dropping the ball. This is the conclusion from a new paper in Oryx, which warns unless officials start taking wildlife crime seriously a number of important species could vanish from the Earth.

“We are failing to conserve some of the world’s most beloved and charismatic species,” Elizabeth Bennett, author of the paper, said in a press release. “We are rapidly losing big, spectacular animals to an entirely new type of trade driven by criminalized syndicates. It is deeply alarming, and the world is not yet taking it seriously. When these criminal networks wipe out wildlife, conservation loses, and local people lose the wildlife on which their livelihoods often depend.”

Organized criminals are decimating some of the world’s favorite species: rhinos, elephants, and tigers are all imperiled by the bloody trade. However, the trade has also hit lesser-known species, such as pangolins, saiga, slow lorises, sun bears, and any number of bird and reptile species. The consequences of this trade are massive: tigers are down to a few thousand survivors, two species of rhino are now dubbed Critically Endangered, the saiga antelope has seen its population drop by 95 percent in two decades, and many forests in Southeast Asia have been described as eerily quiet due to a lack of wildlife.

Songbirds sold in a Laos market for food. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.



Songbirds sold in a Laos market for food. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

In the struggle to save these species from the illegal trade, officials are being out-witted and out-funded by sophisticated smugglers who employ the newest technology, clever techniques, and corruption to avoid arrest. Perhaps, even more importantly, wildlife crime is simply not seen as a priority in many parts of the world, where enforcement is lacking and laws are out-of-date.

“The trade is large-scale and commercialized: elaborate and costly hidden compartments in shipping containers or below wholesale shipments of sawn timber, fish or scrap products, in which are concealed massive quantities of wildlife products from ivory to bear paws and frozen pangolins. The traders are also light on their feet, frequently changing routes and modes of operation as enforcement commences in any one place, and continually working through the routes and means of least resistance. […] Trade through e-commerce from web sites whose location is difficult to detect and who operate beyond the current realms of wildlife legislation and enforcement is a further challenge,” Bennett, who began her career in conservation more than 25 years ago in Asia, writes in the paper. She now works for Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Bennett says the ultimate responsibility for this wholesale decimation of species is due to rising demand for wildlife products in countries like China, Vietnam, and Thailand. In many cases consumers are paying high prices for illegal wildlife products which they believe are curatives. However scientists have shown that animal parts such as rhino horns have no medicinal benefits whatsoever.

According to Bennett there is only one way to stop the criminal activity in time to save species from extinction: law enforcement.

“Enforcement is critical: old fashioned in concept but needing increasingly advanced methods to challenge the ever-more sophisticated methods of smuggling. When enforcement is thorough, and with sufficient resources and personnel, it works,” she writes. Although ‘old-fashioned’ Bennett says tools such as DNA testing kits, smartphone apps for species ID, and high-tech software for Internet crime need to be employed.

Currently enforcement is especially lacking along trade routes and in markets. In many parts of Southeast Asia one can finds illegal wildlife parts sold openly with no fear of punishment.

“We must dedicate the intellectual, funding and personnel resources needed to supersede those of the criminal organizations involved,” she writes. “This requires greatly increased numbers of highly trained and well equipped staff at all points along the trade chain: most especially in core sites where the species are being hunted but also along key transportation routes and in end markets.”

  Dealer shows off coats of wild cats in market in China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Dealer shows off coats of wild cats in market in China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.









Laws that were crafted before the current crisis of the illegal trade also must be updated.

Bennett says that changing the cultural beliefs that prop up this illegal trade should pursued, but laments that such changes ‘is likely to be on a generational time scale.’

“We do not have that luxury of time for many of the species currently targeted by trade,” she explains. “In the short-term the only practical way to reduce demand is through enforcement, both acting as a deterrent and also demonstrating that this is not a socially acceptable norm,” Bennett writes.

In the end, the survival of elephants, tigers, and rhinos, along with innumerable other species, depends on law enforcement, the judiciary, governments, NGOs, and the public coming together to tackle the below-the-radar problem.

“Unless we start taking wildlife crime seriously and allocating the commitment of resources appropriate to tackling sophisticated, well-funded, globally-linked criminal operations, population of some of the most beloved but economically prized, charismatic species will continue to wink out across their range, and, appallingly, altogether,” Bennett warns.

CITATION: Elizabeth L. Bennett. Another inconvenient truth: the failure of enforcement systems to save charismatic species. Oryx. doi:10.1017/S003060531000178X.

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