AFTER reading the StarTwo article about pangolins ( Deadly cravings, Nov 9), these questions are still begging for answers:
1. Why were the sentences for the indicted crimes against wildlife embarrassingly lenient and not deterrent enough to impact the illegal trade or reach the conscience of the criminals?
2. With illegal wildlife trade on the rise, why is Traffic concerned with educating the public and not educating poachers and illegal traders instead?
Ever wonder who is wildlife’s worst enemy? Illegal poachers and traders or the authorities? Here is an example: In one case involving 530 endangered pangolins worth close to RM1mil, the authorities let the culprits off easily with a mere RM9,000 fine and six months’ jail. In another case, a man was fine RM1,500 for possessing 32 pangolins. These penalties are just a slap on the wrist. Again, who is the animal’s real enemy?
When a wildlife trader and poacher in Penang was apprehended with a bagful of baby boa constrictors worth about RM7mil, he got off easily with a RM170,000 fine and six months jail term. That kind of punishment only sends a clear but wrong message across the field: that it is cheap to commit a lucrative crime of trading in animals. The jail term was increased to six years after public outcry and the implication of some top officers in the wildlife agency. Could the illegal involvement of wildlife guardians explain the ridiculously light penalties?
I was at an Eco Day event last year when I noticed something strange on display at the exhibition booth occupied by Forestry Department. There on display was a photo of a slaughtered tiger and a caption that said : “The poacher was fined RM2,000 and four days’ jail.” A four-day jail term for killing a tiger? Of course, you can’t see the logic here because there simply isn’t any.
On a similar note, the authorities, including the Government and NGOs, complain about lack of funds and the need to improve enforcement. It is an impossibility to fully monitor and enforce the law throughout the vastness of our forest, so there will be loopholes for poachers and traders. But the point is not about making arrests as in most cases the animals would already be dead anyway, but rather it is to prevent such crimes through deterrent sentences and severe punishments. Perhaps whipping would also be in order, especially where it involves endangered species.
As it is, the natural challenges of patrolling and enforcing laws in the wild will not effectively halt all poaching activities, and its sheer difficulty keeps poachers coming back. Such situations have made the effort of protecting wildlife a battle of wits between the criminals who believe they can get away with it and enforcers and the judicial system. Nevertheless, the threat of severe punishment can help win half the battle without even having to go after them in the wild. That would be a smarter move against such odds.
The NGOs also call for more A 15kg pangolin, among others, were seized by the Wildlife and National Parks Department in Penang recently. education and awareness about the need to protect wildlife, but are these strategies targeted at the poachers and traders, or the public at large? Education will go down well with the right audience, but it will not make irresponsible poachers and greedy traders turn over a new leaf. They would simply go on with their ways as their bottom line comes from the light penalties, and the fact that it is not expensive to get caught for an illegal but very lucrative enterprise.
It’s time we make sense of our actions. And that means until we make serious examples of those who were caught for crimes against wildlife, and practise what we preach about the severity of their actions, new and potential poachers and traders will continue to flourish and our animals’ future, extinct. RizNordin KualaLumpur