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Tuesday November 6, 2012

Wildlife staff to be rotated to prevent ties with traffickers

Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) officers are being transferred every three years to prevent them from forging ties with wildlife smugglers, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas.

The decision to rotate officers every three years was made following the case involving international wildlife trader Anson Wong, who had allegedly worked with Perhilitan officers in trafficking animals.

“The standard operating procedures in Perhilitan have been changed to enable wildlife trafficking to be contained.

“We realise there are Perhilitan officers who may have been involved in Wong’s operations.

“We have conducted investigations, but it has not been easy,” Uggah told the Dewan Rakyat when winding up the Budget 2013 debate at the committee stage.

He said “familiarity becomes a problem” when an officer has been in the same place for too long.

“The ministry is concerned over the possible abuse of power and will ensure our officers have a strong sense of integrity,” he said when answering a question raised by Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) who wanted to know if the ministry had investigated allegations about the involvement of Perhilitan officers.

Lim also asked if any measures had been taken to prevent a recurrence.

Uggah said the ministry had cooperated with international agencies to prevent wildlife trafficking and had cancelled all licences given to Wong and anybody related to him.

To a question by Yusmadi Yusoff (PKR–Balik Pulau), Uggah said the ministry respected the court’s decision to reduce Wong’s jail sentence for illegally exporting a boa constrictor.

On Sept 6 last year, the Sepang magistrate’s court sentenced Wong to six months’ jail and fined him RM190,000 after he pleaded guilty to illegally exporting the endangered species.

The High Court handed Wong a five-year jail term and set aside the fine after the prosecution appealed.

However, Wong, who is from Penang, was released after the Court of Appeal allowed his appeal and reduced the jail sentence from five years to 17-and-a-half-months.

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