DENGKIL: The amendment to the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 will increase the minimum penalty for poachers to a RM1mil fine and five years in jail, says Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar.
He said the Act was expected to be tabled in December and added that he hoped it would send a strong message to poachers that Malaysia would not tolerate the illegal wildlife trade.
“The message we want to send is we are in the forest, we are coming for you, and we will catch you,” said Jayakumar at the launch of Ops Belang at the Paya Indah Wetlands here Tuesday (April 30).
Jayakumar said it was worrying that there were only 200 tigers left in Malaysia, adding that if drastic action was not taken immediately, Malaysia might lose the iconic animal forever.
Under Ops Belang, 200 Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) officers will patrol the forest around the clock.
They will be supported by trained officers from the Forestry Department (Perhutanan), Johor National Parks Corporation and the Perak State Parks Corporation
They will be focusing on 20 tiger hotspots across the peninsular and will monitor the forest trails, water ways and logging sites for snares and signs of poaching.
Jayakumar said the Ministry was also in talks with the police and the army to have armed personnel patrolling the forests.
“The police force have agreed to give us their support. The army will give us their support in due course time,” he said.
“I am asking for 2,000 people as boots on the ground; the larger the number, the larger area we can cover,” he said, adding that there was nearly five million square miles of forest to cover.
Xavier said the main reason for the dwindling tiger population despite the best efforts in the past few years was because there were not enough resources to patrol the forest.
“India, Nepal and Tibet managed to successfully increase their tiger population because they have a shoot-on-sight policy and armed guards patrolling the forest,” he said.
Jayakumar said a shoot-on-sight policy should be implemented in Malaysia, adding that it would be also for self-defence for those conducting the patrols.
Poachers, many of whom are from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia entering Malaysia on a visitor visa, are known to be armed with guns and machetes.
“The Ministry views this issue seriously, and I have declared a war against poachers,” he said.