THE days of unlicensed restaurants selling exotic meat dishes may be numbered as the authorities are intensifying efforts to crack down on illegal wildlife trade.
Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said consumers shouldered the responsibility of ensuring the eateries serving exotic meat that they patronised were licensed.
He pointed out that only seven restaurants in Selangor were licensed to sell such meat, but did not disclose their names.
Abdul Kadir said these operators were given permission to sell animals that could be hunted such as wild boar, porcupine and junglefowl which they got from licensed hunters.
“If they (the hunters) are licensed, then it is not illegal for them to sell exotic meat, ” he said.
He elaborated that licences were issued by the department for the sale of exotic meat under the Wildlife Protection Act 2010.
“Customers need to ask the eateries’ proprietors whether they have the required licence when patronising such eateries.
“If there is no such licence, the public can lodge a complaint with Perhilitan, ” Abdul Kadir said in an e-mail interview.He added that customers should be able to view the licence as proprietors were required to display the compulsory permits at their premises.
Licence holders are also required to keep detailed records of all wild animal meat acquired and sold, to ensure that the meat is legally obtained.
Most exotic meat is sourced from licensed resellers or hunters with valid gun permits and hunting licences.
“From a conservation aspect, there are hunting seasons for wild animals where the population of a particular species are constantly monitored to ensure their numbers are not threatened, ” said Abdul Kadir.
He said the most common type of exotic meat sold at eateries was wild boar, while consumption of species such as tiger, leopard, serow and bear was forbidden.
Chinese traditional medicine halls in Selangor are warned not to offer endangered wildlife parts in the remedies sold.
Selangor local government, public transportation and new village development executive councillor Ng Sze Han said those who did so would have their trading licence revoked immediately.
He added that all local councils in Selangor must keep tabs on traditional medicine shops to ensure they did not use prohibited items.
According to locals in Klang and Kuala Langat, bezoar stones from porcupines, shark fin and other animal parts are remedies sourced from critically endangered animals sold in some medicine halls.
One local told StarMetro that people believed bezoar stones could help patients with certain diseases. The stone is ground into powder before being added to soups.
Ng urged consumers to stop consuming parts of endangered animals and opt for herbal products instead.
“Herbal alternatives could be safer for consumption, ” he said.
He urged local authorities to work with the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Association of Malaysia to weed out unscrupulous operators.
A crackdown on the unlawful sale of exotic meat and wildlife trade is being intensified under Ops Bersepadu Khazanah (OBK) which was launched in September last year.
Last month, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said he wanted to ensure all districts were free of such activities.
He had given all OCPDs nationwide a month, until Sept 18, to submit a report on the sale of illegal animals in shops and restaurants.
OBK involves the police, Perhilitan, Customs, Forestry Department as well as other federal and state enforcement agencies across the country, with support from non-governmental organisations. Restaurants suspected of selling exotic meat will be raided and OCPDs are tasked with monitoring the situation closely to make sure that such businesses do not reopen.
There had been arrests of several suspects by police and the seizure of wild animal meat in several districts in Johor.
Meanwhile, a check with local authorities revealed that their enforcement power was limited.
Klang Municipal Council (MPK) Licensing Department director Datin Fadzilah Abdul Aziz said the council did not grant licences or permits for the sale of protected wildlife.
“Our department issues an annual trading licence for businesses.
“If we find that the traditional medicine shops or other businesses are dealing in endangered wildlife parts or selling exotic meat, MPK will revoke the licences immediately, ” she said.
A Sepang Municipal Council spokesman said the council did not have a list of restaurants that served exotic meat.
“We issue licences based on the nature of business and in the case of restaurants, we do not require details on the dishes that should or should not be served, ” the spokesman said.
Kajang Municipal Council public relations head Kamarul Izlan Sulaiman said that it, too, did not have information on restaurants that sold exotic meat.
“The police have yet to seek assistance from us and we will cooperate should they need our help.
“However, we do not have such an inventory, ” he said.
Meanwhile, a Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) spokesman confirmed that the sale of exotic meat and wildlife did not fall under DBKL’s jurisdiction.
“However, we will assist in terms of enforcement if there is a request from the police, ” he said.