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  Yahoo News 14 May 07
Malaysia a hub for illegal wildlife trade

The Star 12 May 07
Smugglers using Malaysia as transit point
By Eddie Chua eddichua@thestar.com.my

PETALING JAYA: Wildlife smugglers are using Peninsular Malaysia as a transit point to transport pangolins, freshwater turtles, monitor lizards and snakes worth millions of ringgit by land to China, where these animals are in high demand as exotic food.

Although Customs and the anti-smuggling unit at the Malaysian-Thai border have stepped up checks and confiscated consignments of these animals, they believe the illegal trade continues daily.

Kelantan Wildlife and National Parks Department director Pazil Abdul Patah told The Star that smugglers were taking advantage of the long, winding and shallow Sungai Golok to smuggle the animals.

“The river is about 100km long and easily accessible by road from the Malaysian side. This makes it a favourite among smugglers.” He said smugglers used illegal jetties and small wooden boats to ferry the animals across. He said although officers had nabbed some of the smugglers, enforcement along the river was tedious and difficult.

“Furthermore, smugglers are always one step ahead of enforcement officers,” he said.

Investigations by wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic – a joint programme of the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union – have revealed that wildlife traders from Sumatra and Borneo regularly smuggled the animals by sea or air to middlemen in Malaysia.

“These middlemen hold the animals in makeshift bays before packing them into crates, boxes and gunny sacks, and smuggling them to Thailand,” said Traffic South-East Asia regional senior programme officer Chris Shepherd. “The animals are taken by land, either through Laos or Cambodia, and then Vietnam, to China.”

He said that in some cases, the wild animals were flown from Kuala Lumpur or Penang to Bangkok or straight to China. “Those that arrive in Bangkok are put on lorries and smuggled to China by road.”

Less than 72 hours after the animals are smuggled out of Malaysia, they can be found in China, ready for the cooking pot.

Shepherd said frozen pangolin, turtle, monitor lizard and snake meat were also smuggled to China from Malaysia by sea and air. “In such cases, most of the frozen illegal meats are packed and disguised as other legitimate meats for export in freezer containers.”

He said the volume of pangolins, turtles and tortoises being smuggled for consumption was alarming.

“Wildlife authorities estimated the number of such animals in the wild is fast declining, with some turtle and tortoise species on the brink of extinction.”

A wildlife department ranger said pangolin catchers were paid between RM100 and RM200, depending on the weight and size of the captured animal, while monitor lizards and snakes fetched between RM20 and RM50 per piece.

He said anteater meat could fetch as much as RM1,000 per kilo in restaurants in China while the monitor lizards and snakes go for between RM150 and RM200 per kilo. Freshwater turtles are sold for between RM100 to RM300 per kilo.

Pangolins and freshwater turtles are considered a delicacy among Asians, particularly in China, while their skin, bones and other body parts are believed to cure a broad spectrum of ailments.

Yahoo News 14 May 07
Malaysia a hub for illegal wildlife trade

Criminal gangs are using Malaysia as a hub for exporting millions of dollars worth of wildlife for the Chinese market, wildlife officials said Sunday. Officials said trafficking of wildlife had hit alarming levels in Malaysia, which also plays the role of source and consumer.

Traders from Indonesia's Sumatra and Borneo island regularly smuggle the animals to middlemen in Malaysia, said Chris Shepherd of wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

"Criminal syndicates are mainly behind the trafficking. It is growing at an alarming rate," he told AFP.

"Unless tough measures are put in place to contain the illegal activity, it will have a serious impact on the wildlife, including animals in the Malaysian jungle, which are also being poached," Shepherd added. Traffic is a joint programme of the WWF and the World Conservation Union.

Shepherd said among the most sought after creatures are fresh water turtles, tortoises, many species of snakes, pangolins, Sumatran rhino, tiger and sambar deer.

Shepherd said the Malaysian middlemen smuggle the animals to Thailand and then to China to be eaten, adding that meat from the sambar deer and sun bear is also consumed in Malaysia.

Six people have been arrested so far this year for attempting to smuggle snakes and pangolins into Thailand, said Pazil Abdul Patah, a wildlife official in the northeastern Kelantan state, which shares a porous border with Thailand.

"I estimate the annual value of the illegal trade to be worth millions of dollars," he told AFP, adding that "the public have to come forward to tip us off of the illegal activity." "If the trafficking is not stopped, I fear our wildlife will become extinct," he warned.

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, found in Asia and Africa, are considered a delicacy in China and are prized for their use in traditional medicine.

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