THE front page of The Star on Sept 4 reported “IGP proposes whipping for wildlife poachers and smugglers” (online at bit.ly/star_wildlife).
I have much respect for the Inspector-General of Police, Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador, for fighting for and standing his ground on tougher penalties and laws against wildlife poachers and smugglers. I stand by you, sir (though I would have said “just shoot them” but I suppose that’s a little over the top).
What also needs to be looked into is the seizure of all assets belonging to these poachers and smugglers and also associates such as pet shops and other fronts that act on their behalf.
The complex poaching chain finds its way across logistics, middlemen, syndicates, fronts and consumers. All must be covered under the law and be imposed with hefty fines, seizure of assets and long jail terms and whipping.
Only when such laws are enacted will the lucrative trade – for which our beloved country has been labelled as a notorious “destination airport” and transit location – see some abatement.
Malaysians watched our last Sumatran rhinoceros, Tam (pic above), disappear forever from our midst, while on the endangered species list are iconic creatures such as the Malayan tiger, black shrew, Malayan tapir, orang utan, Borneo pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey, Sunda pangolin, the sun bear, sambar deer and kijang, and many more. Do we sit by and watch our wildlife disappear forever?
Our government should be more committed and involved in fighting this illegal trade. I would rather sacrifice that new airport, or highway or infrastructure or tallest building and divert the funds towards this fight instead.
Whose fault will it be when our tigers, orang utan and tapirs or other endangered species appear only on stamps and postcards, in books and old videos and as stuffed animals in museums and nowhere in the wild?
Will future generations of Malaysians have to use the Internet to look at wildlife that we wiped out as we stood by in apathy and detached ourselves from the predicament?
We as Malaysians are to blame.
The task of patrolling the forest should not be only left to the wildlife rangers and the police force alone, it should also be assigned to the army, military, navy, air force, etc. They can incorporate it as part of their training.
As lamented by our IGP, “Although (the) police are busy with operations against drugs, alcohol, bribery and more, we cannot be selfish and not protect wildlife”.
Can we have such a show of strength from the armed forces, too?
Some countries are using technology such as drones and satellites, and analytics and data to combat poaching. Africa, which is like Malaysia in that it is also developing, has had the foresight to use technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones since 2013.
Satellite remote sensing, machine learning (neural networks processing), geographic information systems and global positioning systems have greatly expanded opportunities for data collection, integration, analysis, modelling, and satellite map production for wildlife monitoring and assessment.
High resolution satellite imagery give scientists and researchers increasingly up-to-date geospatial data, and by using neural networks processing, reliable statistics are obtained for monitoring wildlife migrations, habitat mapping and tracking of endangered species in remote areas to assist in management and conservation activities, including counting adult and calf species.
Alongside an increased use of technology, anti-poaching laws must be introduced or strengthened to cover every loophole and apply to every area of the illegal trade in wildlife, from poaching, distribution, logistics and Internet advertising to shipping, trade, and consumers.
Laws should put in place giving authorities the ability to seize criminal assets – this is what will make an impact on organised criminal networks.
Businesses linked to the illegal wildlife trade must be severely dealt with, not just at the company employee level but also at the director level.
Stand firm on corruption involving the illegal wildlife trade and take government officers or departments to task if they are involved.
On our part, the consumers, we have to say no to illegal wildlife products, illegal wildlife trade and the use or consumption of products originating from the illegal wildlife trade. That, and contributing to NGOs working on wildlife conservation, would go a long way towards ending the illegal trade.
But it is the government and its resources that can do the most in safeguarding our wildlife.
The government that we elected holds the key to whether wildlife is important in Malaysia’s political agenda.
Speak up for the conservation of wildlife, speak up for our animals because they can’t speak from themselves. The great conservationist Jane Goodall once said, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”
Once again, my sincere thanks to the IGP who has spoken for the rakyat; his sentiments and proposal should not go unheeded if we are truly serious about saving Malaysian wildlife.