Agencies must work together to battle graft in growing animal trade

The Borneon Sunda clouded leopard is one of several species under threat of poaching, hunting and illegal trade in Sabah. — Filepic

KOTA KINABALU: Inter-agency cooperation is vital to combat corruption in the growing and lucrative international wildlife trade, say enforcement authorities.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Augustine Tuuga said corruption was multifaceted and could occur at every stage of the wildlife, forestry and fisheries value chain.

“It can include bribes for information on the movement of animals or patrols, or to obtain rights and quotas, or grease the wheels of shipments, to ensure that they are not inspected or seized, ” he said during a workshop on laws governing anti-corruption, witness and whistleblowers protection.

The workshop was attended by Sabah and Sarawak wildlife crime investigators as part of efforts to fight against the illicit international trade of fast diminishing wildlife.

Tuuga said it was important for his department to work with all partners to build understanding and ensure that wildlife, forest and fisheries agencies were trained and equipped to respond to corruption.

“The department is also looking forward to collaboration with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). We will work towards the creation of an Organisational Anti-Corruption Plan, ” he said during the workshop organised by SWD, MACC and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) as part of training for the Working Group on Wildlife Crime Intelligence.

The workshop was also a platform for the different agencies to share their difficulties in tackling corruption related to wildlife crimes, according to a statement released by the working group.

MACC Sabah director S. Karunanithy said the commission was concerned that graft involving wildlife trade was spreading rapidly and becoming hard to control.

“Worldwide, bribery in crimes involving wildlife smuggling is increasingly spreading at a worrying pace and has become one of the driving forces for illicit trade that is still hard to curb at the national and international level, ” he said during the workshop.

“Bribery is no longer seen as only a local problem but has evolved into trans-boundary crime phenomena, ” he said.

Karunanithy said that trade and smuggling of wildlife internationally usually involved bribery, smuggling and money laundering, among others.

Danau Girang director Dr Benoit Goossens said he hoped that the workshop would help increase inter-agency collaboration in efforts to achieve the objectives of the Wildlife State Action Plans adopted last year by the Sabah Cabinet.

“During the 2017 international workshops on proboscis monkey, Sunda clouded leopard and Bornean banteng, it was recognised that poaching, hunting, and illegal killing and trade, were real threats to these and other species in Sabah.

“The information compiled at the workshops was included in the state action plans for each species, specifically to increase the capacities of wildlife law enforcement government agencies and of key partners in conservation, ” he said.

In particular, he said they aimed to train crime analysts, investigators and intelligence gatherers, and a certified forensic technician at the Sabah Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensic Laboratory (WHGFL).

This training is part of the programme to boost enforcement and forensic capacity to deter wildlife crimes in Sabah.

He said the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs had provided almost RM4mil for the enforcement and forensic programme for specialised training for members of the Working Group on Wildlife Crime Intelligence.

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