SEREMBAN: The High Court here has dismissed an application by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) to strike out a suit from a resident and a non-governmental organisation over the alleged culling of dusky leaf monkeys in Port Dickson.
Rajesh Nagarajan, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said High Court Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan also fixed Jan 8 to 11, 2024, to hear the case.
"The court gave us direction for pre-trial, case management and the necessary documents to be filed.
"The next case management date was also fixed for Feb 7 next year," he said when contacted.
Rajesh is representing Nurul Azreen Sultan, a resident at Taman Raja Zainal in Port Dickson where the monkeys were allegedly shot and killed and wildlife rights NGO Hak Asasi Hidupan Liar Malaysia (Hidup).
Rajesh, who is also founder of Lawyers for Animal Rights, said the plaintiffs’ main contention is that Perhilitan's role was to protect wildlife and that they should not have culled the endangered animals.
The defendants are Perhilitan personnel Ismail Abdullah, 39; Amirul Faries Idris, 34; and Mohd Saiful Asnawi Abdul Mutalib, 27; the director-general of the department and the Energy and Natural Resources Minister.
In their suit filed on July 21 last year, the plaintiffs claimed more than 20 adult and baby dusky leaf monkeys were shot dead during an operation conducted by the department around 10am on May 19.
They claimed that the carcasses were later put in gunny sacks and taken away.
In their suit, they also claimed that it was common knowledge that the dusky leaf monkeys were extremely shy primates and that the defendants had wrongly concluded that they could attack humans.
The department, they claimed, had no business culling the animals which were also listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Fauna to which Malaysia is a signatory.
By culling the "totally protected wildlife", the defendants had violated Section 86 (1)(f) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 which states that it is an offence to wilfully cause any unnecessary suffering, pain or discomfort to any wildlife.
Offenders can be fined up to RM50,000 or jailed for a term not exceeding one year or both.
The plaintiffs stated the defendants had no justification to cull the animals as they did not pose any immediate threat to any one.
Perhilitan filed an application on Oct 11 last year to strike out the suit.
Following the shooting incident, Perhilitan had in a statement in May last year said it was forced to cull seven adult dusky leaf monkeys or lotong as these animals had caused serious injuries to humans on three occasions in the same year.
It claimed all seven monkeys were aggressive and had to be put down after attempts to trap or relocate them failed.
It rubbished reports that 20 dusky leaf monkeys were shot and killed in the operation.
The department also stated there were no juveniles culled in the operation as mentioned in the viral reports.
Perhilitan said its decision to cull was in line with provisions under the Wildlife Protection Act, which allows it to rid any wildlife that causes harm to humans or property.