Wildlife protectors learn methods to tackle online trafficking of protected species


KOTA KINABALU: The online sale of endangered wildlife is proving to be a tough hurdle for enforcers tackling the illicit trade.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said it was a huge challenge to collect digital evidence.

He added that those who trafficked in protected species had taken to platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram to ply their trade.

"Cases of arrests involving online sales are still few and often arrests are (only) made when it is ensured that protected wildlife is in a suspect's possession," he told a two-day workshop for the Wildlife Crime Inter-agency Working Group on Monday (Jan 24).

The working group comprises representatives of various state departments, law enforcement agencies and NGOs.

Furthermore, he said that under existing laws, it was not an offence for a person to display protected animals on a social media platform.

The workshop also introduced methods to monitor social media and seize digital equipment and evidence applicable to wildlife trafficking.

Other agencies involved in the workshop included the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

The training was related to information gathering, first responder activity and data preservation during raids against perpetrators who used social media platforms.

The ongoing programme had been funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the US State Department since October 2019 at a cost of nearly RM8mil.

INL project coordinator for DGFC Dr Milena Salgado Lynn said the cooperation of MCMC gave the inter-governmental group more confidence in handling online investigations.

Salgado said DGFC was working closely with the Wildlife Department to combat such criminal activities by organising training as well as helping to set up Intelligence and Forensics Units.

She said INL offered to continue the funding of the programme for two more years after it ended in October last year.

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