THE tiger is one of Malaysia’s iconic animals. It is our national animal and depicted in our coat of arms.
It is the nickname for our national football team, and tigers also appear in various Malaysian institutions such as the Royal Malaysian Police, Maybank, and Proton.
Recently, three people were detained for poaching a Malayan tiger in Kemaman, Terengganu.
Terengganu Wildlife and National Park Department director Mohd Hasdi Husin said that the three were handed to the police for allegedly killing the tiger and trying to sell its body parts for medicinal purposes.
Acting on a tip-off, three officers initially posed as buyers and made a deal with the suspects, and a deposit of RM10,000 was to be paid to them.
Their house was later raided and carcass was found in the bathroom, chopped into four, as the trio allegedly attempted to sell the tiger’s skin, bones and teeth.
The three suspects also intended to sell the tiger meat to restaurants selling exotic meat.
It is sad that people are still hunting down our critically endangered tigers, when it is estimated that only 250 to 340 tigers are left in our Malaysian jungles.
These precious creatures are hunted and killed for their body parts, that are commonly used in traditional medicine.
Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) questioned why and how is it possible that people can hunt and kill our tigers for their personal benefit.
Is it a lack of vigilance? A lack of overall effort? Incompetence or negligence?
We are so close to losing our wild Malayan tigers. Every single tiger is important. But poachers still seem to be able to hunt them down.
To prevent further loss, MYCAT calls for maximum penalties to be meted out to the suspects - that is a RM500,000 fine and five-year jail term.
In two separate cases in Sabah last year, convicted traders were slapped with maximum jail terms or fines. MYCAT expressed their hope that Peninsular Malaysia’s courts will give similar recognition to the severity of these crimes.
I think the courts need to be harsher with their sentencing. It needs to set the tone on how traders and poachers will be dealt with if they are caught.
If the penalties and risks are high, it will certainly make the person think twice about committing a wildlife crime.
“Alternative penalties to be used against poachers and traders, for example freezing bank accounts, confiscating passports, revoking all business licences,” said MYCAT.
The group also said that the Government should increase the budget for enforcement patrols and to increase patrols in the forest.
Between 2010 and 2013, more than 2,241 poachers’ traps and 1,728 illegal camp sites were found by NGOs conducting research in Peninsular Malaysia’s forests.
“With the current economic crisis, it will be increasingly attractive for poachers to hunt endangered wildlife,” said MYCAT.
“Similar to how security needs to be stepped up to counter potential threats to national safety, we also have a duty to protect our wildlife.
“The Government needs to allocate more resources to Perhilitan for building intelligence networks.
“The fact that Perhilitan was acting on a tip-off highlights the important role that the public plays as a source of information,” it said.
Our law enforcement and justice system needs to take a strong stand against wildlife crime.
It is a serious crime for these poachers to accelerate the extinction of a species that is critically endangered. It is something that we are not able to come back from if we act too late, or not act at all.
Authorities have their role to play, but individual Malaysians can play their part, too.
Advocate for stronger measures to be taken against illegal wildlife traders and poachers. Build social pressure against poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
The illegal hunting of Malaysia’s wildlife, our national jewels, must be considered absolutely unacceptable by society.
If you witness a wildlife crime or suspect a wildlife crime is taking place, lodge a report to the 24-hour MYCAT Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-356 4194 or email@example.com, you can also call the Perhilitan Hotline at 1-800-88-5151.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.