PETALING JAYA: Environmental activists welcomed the revised maximum penalty of up to RM1mil under the amended Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716), but are calling for greater enforcement of the law to ensure effectiveness.
Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (Ecomy) president and chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian said the issue of low penalties was resolved with the amendment.
“The law is pretty rounded, but some provisions can be amended and improved because a lot of online trading is taking place.
“The end game here is enforcement and encouraging people to become whistle-blowers against small-time or big-time poachers. More incentives should also be given to those who give this information.
“At some point, it is hoped that authorities such as the Wildlife and National Parks Department, as well as the Forestry Department, will merge to become a powerful entity so that they can enforce and monitor wildlife and poaching activities efficiently,” he said.
“There is also a lack of awareness among Malaysians about the threats faced by Malaysia’s biodiversity.”
The amended Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716), which raised the maximum fine to RM1mil from RM500,000 for offenders, is expected to take effect in July.
Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said that apart from the increased fine, the amendments included the maximum jail term being increased to 15 years from 10 years previously.
During the pandemic, Perhilitan said wildlife smuggling dropped from 10 cases in 2020 to four in 2021. For poaching, the department recorded 10 cases in 2020.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia said a new law and heavier penalties would empower enforcement agencies to take action against wildlife criminals.
“In Malaysia, poaching remains the greatest threat to wildlife conservation. Despite intensified efforts to combat poaching, there is still great demand for exotic wildlife and parts.
“We believe that the amendments, coupled with other efforts like the setting up of the Wildlife Crime Unit by the Royal Malaysia Police last year, can be an effective deterrent to wildlife crimes.
“The public can also do their part by not buying wildlife meat or animal parts, or keeping wildlife as pets. Please support anti-poaching campaigns by the relevant authorities and non-governmental organisations,” it said in a statement.
It also urged people to lodge a report with the authorities if they see any illegal trading or poaching.
“There is also a need to do research on illegal wildlife trade routes, study the effects of the wildlife trade on particular species and on deficiencies in wildlife trade laws,” it said.
“We need to encourage cross-border cooperation by working with government agencies and schools to create public awareness.
“Consumers must be educated to make informed choices when buying wildlife-based products.”