KUALA LUMPUR (AFP): Malaysian authorities have arrested six people accused of running a decade-long poaching syndicate that sold deer meat, porcupine and protected birds, a top wildlife official said on Wednesday (Aug 23).
The group used encrypted social media apps to run the illegal business in the wildlife-rich Southeast Asian country, where officials say poaching is on the rise due to high food prices and financial difficulties among residents.
Noor Alif Wira Osman, head of the wildlife department’s enforcement unit, told AFP the poachers were arrested last week in the northern state of Kedah in an operation codenamed “Ops Hunter”.
“They have been extremely active for the past 10 years. They used the social media – Telegram and WhatsApp – to plan their poaching trips and to market their catch,” he said.
The six men, aged between 40 and 63, are due to be charged in the coming weeks and face up to three years in prison if found guilty, Noor Alif said.
They were caught by a joint task force of police and wildlife authorities after illegally entering the Ulu Muda forest reserve in Kedah armed with shotguns and bows and arrows.
Around US$21,000 (RM97,786) worth of sambar deer parts, porcupine meat and protected birds such as hornbills and black-headed and black-crested bulbuls were also found, Alif said.
Wildlife officials estimate the ring is responsible for poaching animals worth around US$500,000 (RM2.33mil) in the past decade.
Kanitha Krishnasamy, Southeast Asia director at wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic, lauded the sting.
“Reports on this case are worrying on many fronts – from the organised poaching packages, online chat apps to the source buyers,” she said.
“We urge agencies involved to seriously investigate the whole chain and ensure syndicates like these face the brunt of the law to reinforce the message that wildlife crime is a serious crime.” – AFP.