MIRI: More than 400 endangered animals were rescued during raids carried out by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) in pet shops in Sibu.
In the raids carried out over the past week, it was found that one even operated an illegal breeding farm producing wildlife for commercial sale.
In a press statement on Wednesday (Aug 21), the SFC said the raids were part of a crackdown on pet shops doing illegal businesses.
Among the protected and totally-protected animals rescued were hornbills, mousedeers, antelopes as well as many species of rare birds, parrots and other small mammals.
On July 20, SFC also sent its enforcement units from Kuching to raid pet shops in Miri.
Some 54 endangered animals of various species were rescued from seven pet shops.
The raids against these pet shops, which were acting as fronts to sell wildlife for huge commercial profit, saw the rescue of long-tailed macaques, Hill Myna, near-extinct birds like Budgies, Love Birds, Red-Whiskered Bulbul, rare parrots, exotic Cherry Head, exotic Indian Star Tortoises, Red-Footed Tortoises and rare green lizards.
SFC chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton said the raids were carried out to deter the illegal activities taking place in pet shops.
He said commercial transactions, sales and illegal possession of wildlife contravenes the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.
"Illegal possession of these wildlife is a serious crime," he said in a press release.
Zolkipli said in the Sibu raids, 366 of the rescued animals were listed under CITES (Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species).
The rescued animals will be sent to the Matang Wildlife Sanctuary in Kuching for rehabilitation and later release into the wild, he added.
"Anyone who hunts, trap, capture, kill, import, export, possess, offer for sale and sell any totally protected and protected live animal or the body-parts are committing a serious crime too.
"They can be fined between RM10,000 to RM50,000 and jailed between one to five years," Zolkipli warned.
Members of the public who have information about these wildlife abuses are urged to alert the SFC hotlines immediately.
Kuching SFC hotlines are 019-885 9996,016-856 5564; Sibu 019-819 0140,019-889 4474; Bintulu 019-822 3449,019-833 2737; Miri 019-822 4566 and 019-829 0994.
There had been many complaints from locals and expatriates that many pet shops in Sarawak were selling animals in cruel, cramped conditions.
The Star learned that foreigners were among those who frequently bought these animals from these Miri pet shops and smuggled them across the border into Brunei.
These animals fetch thousands of Brunei dollars each as they are considered as trophies.