KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat has passed a law to increase the punishment meted out to better protect the nation's endangered wildlife and fauna.
The Wildlife Conservation (Amendment) Bill 2021 was passed by the House by voice vote following debates.
The amendments saw jail terms for poachers and illegal hunters of protected wildlife increased to between five and 15 years for several offences.
This included increasing fines to between RM50,000 and RM1mil for several offences under the new law.
Penalties were also increased for those convicted of foraging for plants, taking any samples, disturbing any 'nests or eggs' in protected wildlife areas.
The Bill would include new provisions, namely Section 88A and 88B, which provides for punishments for those who organise wildlife shows and promote wildlife.
Under Section 88A, individuals were prohibited from organising wildlife shows unless a holder of a permit to operate a zoo.
Those who flouted this law were liable to a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than three years or both upon conviction.
Section 88B stated that no person shall promote any wildlife business unless a licensed dealer and a holder of a special permit to carry out such activities.
Those found guilty of breaching this section could be fined not less than RM50,000 and not more than RM100,000 or imprisoned for a term not exceeding five years or both.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan described the new law as a means to curb illegal poaching while protecting the nation's natural heritage.
"It is timely as we head towards a more harmonious situation in the country, not just among the people, but also the wildlife and the habitat," he said during his ministerial replies in Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Oct 26).
He informed MPs that a recent survey revealed that there were only 200 Malayan Tigers left in the wild in Peninsular Malaysia.
"This is very worrying. If we don't do anything, we will only be left with the Malayan Tiger as an official emblem," he said.
In response to this, Takiyuddin announced the formation of the National Conservation Task Force or "MyTTF" that would be chaired by the Prime Minister.
He said that a working committee called the Tigers Working Group (TWG) had been set up to look at ways to increase tiger population in the wild.
"On Wednesday (Oct 27), I will head to the Sungkai Tiger Rescue centre to look into this matter further," he said.
Earlier during debates, Dr Azman Ismail (PH-Kuala Kedah) questioned why Sabah and Sarawak were not covered by the new law.
"Many international reports had implicated Sabah and Sarawak. This is a big loophole," he said as the new law would only apply in Peninsular Malaysia and Labuan.
Datuk Johari Abdul (PH-Sungai Petani) suggested that borders between Thailand be tightened to prevent smuggling of exotic animals.
Mohamed Hanipa Maidin (PH-Sepang) said that manpower at the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) should be increased.
He noted the lack of enforcement personnel would hamper efforts to protect wildlife including securing successful convictions against offenders in court.