KUALA LUMPUR: A group of poachers, including a plantation general manager, have been nabbed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in a bust that may have crippled one of the major poaching syndicates in Kelantan.
The seven Malaysians, aged between 28 and 52, were believed to have been on their way out of the jungle at Aring 5 in Gua Musang when they were arrested on Friday.
High on Perhilitan’s wanted list, the notorious poachers have been eluding the law since 2013.
They are believed to have been involved in illegal hunting for a long time in Kelantan up to the boundaries of Perak.
Perhilitan director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said the department’s enforcement officers and Malaysian Armed Forces personnel carrying out 1Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Operation Network checks at the national park had stopped the men, who were in two four-wheel drive vehicles, as they were behaving suspiciously.
Upon inspection, the officers found an organ believed to be from a crocodile.
What was more shocking was the number of weapons found in the vehicles; a Benelli 12-bore gun and three shotguns, 77 bore type bullets, 32 slug type bullets, 22 nails, two knives, an axe, eight machetes and three units of plastic explosives and detonator as well as 27 firecrackers.
The arrests led to two separate raids – in Tanah Merah on Saturday and on Sunday at several places around Gua Musang – that netted two elephant tusks, elephant meat believed to have been smoked, nine chainsaws, 56 bullets, two rifle magazines and three machetes.
The seized weapons, equipment and goods were estimated at RM500,000, while the remnants of wildlife were worth some RM15,000 in the black market.
“We believe that with this arrest, we have busted a major poaching syndicate in Kelantan that has been actively hunting wild buffaloes, serow, elephants and Sambar deer,” Abdul Kadir told a press conference here yesterday.
A department spokesman said the men had given the authorities the slip many times and it was hard to track them down.
“Just look at the amount of weapons they have. These are professional poachers,” the spokesman said.
The elephant tusk seized could fetch up to RM2,000 per kg while a pair of tiger fangs were sold at RM3,000 on average in the black market, Abdul Kadir said.
“The smoked elephant meat could have been sold for medicine.”
The suspects have been remanded for four days since Saturday to help with investigations.
Perhilitan enforcement division director Salman Saaban said the group of poachers targeted large mammals based on the equipment seized.
“Usually chainsaws are used to retrieve elephant tusks and the rifles used are powerful enough to shoot elephants and gaur.
“They are believed to be part of a syndicate, which is supplying wildlife parts to neighbouring countries,” said Salman, adding that Perhilitan was still investigating the extent of the group’s network.
The suspects face a maximum RM100,000 fine or up to three years in jail or both if they are convicted of poaching and keeping protected wildlife without permit under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.
Those with information on wildlife poaching could contact Perhilitan through its hotline 1-800-88-5151 (Monday to Sunday, 8am to 6pm) or file an e-aduan on www.wildlife.gov.my.