WWF-Malaysia head of Conservation for Sarawak Dr Jason Hon

ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE

KUCHING: A hefty fine recently imposed on pangolin smugglers is commensurate with the seriousness of illegal wildlife trade.

WWF-Malaysia’s head of conservation for Sarawak, Dr Jason Hon, said the issue was a pressing one, and ample emphasis on crackdown on trading of protected species is timely.

He was responding to the sentencing of a boat owner and his staff to one-year imprisonment and a fine of RM1.4 million in default four months’ jail for possessing without a license 146 pangolins which are endangered and protected animals.

Last Tuesday, Sessions Court Judge Norhamizah Shaiffuddin found Tan Choon How and Kelvin Por Seong Wooi guilty as charged.

WWF-Malaysia head of Conservation for Sarawak Dr Jason Hon

“Wildlife trade is illegal. I think it is the first message that we are trying to send out … that it is a crime.

“The fact that the judge actually ruled for imprisonment shows the nature of the crime, which is committed by an international syndicate for foreign markets,” he told reporters during a media luncheon here yesterday.

Hon questioned why Sarawak must suffer the loss of pangolins to feed people in other parts of the world.

“We cannot let this happen. It is timely that we pay serious attention to cases like this, the fine itself is justified,” he said while reminding the public to report similar crimes to the authorities.

He also said that WWF-Malaysia was formulating a sentencing guideline for wildlife crimes in Sarawak to help judges understand their seriousness before giving their rulings.

“We have spoken to judges and former chief judge for Sabah and Sarawak. He was open to the idea. We are in the exploratory phase. Hopefully with this document, we can have a guideline that will help our judges make fair and just decisions.”

Hon said that this was not new as it had been done in the United Kingdom and also applied in courts in Sabah.

“This would also depend on the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998, which should be reviewed. We have been told that the state government is looking into reviewing it,” he said.

He added that both the review of the ordinance and the drafting of the sentencing guideline can be done in parallel to each other for a stronger set of law to deter wildlife crimes in Sarawak.