NGO REPORT: Malaysia a prominent transit country for wildlife trafficking
KUALA LUMPUR: THE large amount of ivory shipped to Malaysia indicates that underworld elements are involved in the smuggling of the contraband.
Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic deputy director for Southeast Asia Dr Chris R. Shepherd said small-time wildlife traffickers would not have the capacity to ship such large consignments of ivory across many countries.
"Wildlife crime should be treated more seriously and given a higher priority as there are indications that organised criminals are involved in the trade."
Past seizures of ivory by Malay-sian Customs officers, such as the discovery of 1,500 pieces of African elephant tusks in wooden crates late last year, were proof that Malaysia had become a prominent transit country for wildlife trafficking.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists Malaysia as one of eight countries identified as countries affected by the ivory trade.
Shepherd said stern enforcement by authorities could hamper efforts by wildlife traffickers utilising Malaysia as a transit point in the future.
"An example would be the case where a man in Kedah was caught with 22 tiger skins and a number of elephant tusks in his house. He holds the key that could open up opportunities for further investigations, as it gives us a chance to find out who is behind the trade."
He said authorities should also punish traffickers equivalent to their crime.
Shepherd also proposed for seized ivory to be destroyed, to send a clear message to traffickers that it will not be tolerated.
"There still needs to be a lot of work done in investigating the trade, such as who is behind it, the end consumers and middlemen.
"Cooperation between source and transit countries, such as Malaysia and countries in the region of Africa, would benefit both authorities, as it would ensure that smugglers would not have it easy."
Shepherd said Traffic was in the midst of working with the Customs Department in strengthening its capacity-building programmes.
"We are holding two workshops with the department, where frontline officers would be exposed to the wildlife trade and how to detect ivory in shipments."
He said the first workshop was held in Klang, with another to be held later this week in Johor Baru.