Malaysian Officials Seize Tiger Parts, Arrest Restaurant Owner

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 16, 2011 (ENS) – A restaurant owner could face the equivalent of US$196,000 in fines and time in jail after authorities found him in possession of dried tiger parts as well as meat and the parts of several other protected species.

When they raided the man’s house and restaurant on Tuesday, officers from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, or Perhilitan, in Pahang state found glass jars containing tiger skin and claws, believed to have been part of the exotic delicacies served at the restaurant.

They also found dried parts of several other animals, which will be sent for forensic analysis.

The find of tiger parts in the suspect’s possession is significant because his village of Kubang Rusa in Merapoh, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, lies within the country’s most important tiger corridor, said Pahang Perhilitan Director Khairiah Mohd Shariff.

This corridor, Sungai Yu, is a critical link between the Taman Negara national park and the Main Range, two of Malaysia’s most important tiger landscapes, as identified in the country’s Tiger Conservation Action Plan.

Pahang Perhilitan Director Khairiah Mohd Shariff displays tiger parts and parts of other protected animals seized March 15, 2011. (Photo courtesy TRAFFIC Southeast Asia)

Fewer than 3,200 tigers survive in the wild today, down from approximately 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. An international conservation effort is underway to double the number of wild tigers by the year 2022, the next Year of the Tiger on the Chinese calendar.

The Perhilitan wildlife officers also found a total of 17 kilograms (37 pounds) of common barking deer meat, two skinned mouse deer, 54 argus pheasant feathers, and a white-breasted waterhen.

The suspect is a second-time offender, having been convicted in 2008 for possession of barking deer meat without a permit. He could face two charges under Section 68 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 for keeping the tiger parts and argus pheasant feathers without a permit.

Illegal possession of some totally protected species such as tigers, also carries a mandatory jail requirement under this law.

The suspect also faces another three charges under Section 60 of the same Act for keeping the protected white-breasted waterhen and exotic meats without a permit. He is out on bail pending trial.

In two other operations this month, Perhilitan Pahang seized wild boar meat from two houses in the town of Triang and are expected to charge two local men and a woman for being in possession of the meat without a license.

In February, officers seized a sulphur-crested cockatoo and two blue-crowned hanging parrots from a man in the town of Janda Baik.

All suspects face heavy fines under a new law which came into force last December.

So far this year Perhilitan Pahang officials have also seized four guns from people who have committed hunting offenses in the state, including one home-made gun.

Khairiah expressed concern over the abuse of weapons for illegal hunting and told a press conference that the department would not hesitate to use its powers under the new law to confiscate guns under these circumstances and seek police assistance to revoke an offender’s license to carry and use a gun.

“It is wildlife traders such as this one that have given Malaysia a reputation as being a poaching hotspot and trade hub,” said Chris Shepherd, Southeast Asia’s regional deputy director with the international wildlife trade monitoring organization, TRAFFIC.

“These criminals are posing a serious threat to the continual survival of many increasingly threatened species,” Shepherd said.

“The authorities are to be applauded for taking action, especially in such a critical tiger landscape,” he said. “TRAFFIC urges the authorities to penalize this man and others like him to the full extent of the law to deter further such crime, and to demonstrate just how serious they are about protecting Malaysia’s natural heritage.”

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