Tuesday, 26 January 2010

NGOs welcome transparency to curb illegal wildlife trade

Tuesday January 26, 2010 The Star, Malaysia

NGOs welcome transparency to curb illegal wildlife trade

PETALING JAYA: Environmental groups welcome the Government’s intention to make wildlife special permits approval a more transparent process, to curb the illegal trade in wildlife contributing to species extinction.

World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma suggested that a formal committee be set up with relevant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) sitting in by invitation.

“This committee also needs a specific Terms of Reference (ToR) so its role and responsibilities are known, and the membership can be reviewed yearly,” he said, adding that wildlife offenders should not be granted special permits.

On Sunday, The Star reported Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas as saying that he had taken over the chairmanship of the Special Permit Committee from the director-general of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

He also said the ministry would solicit NGOs’ views to improve the Special Permit system which has been blamed for facilitating animal smuggling.

Traffic Southeast Asia, the wildlife trade monitoring network, praised the minister for taking a personal interest in the matter by addressing issues within the existing system.

“We welcome such transparency and accountability. We hope the ministry will make public the other members of this committee, and how NGOs can work with the ministry and Perhilitan to make the process more credible,” said its senior communication officer Elizabeth John.

Both WWF and Traffic called for guidelines for special permits application, a mechanism for monitoring permit holders and a review process.

Under the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, totally protected species or species on Schedules One and Three include highly endangered mammals, reptiles and marine creatures like the orang utan, tiger, rhinoceros, dolphin, crocodile and certain snakes and lizards as well as 454 species of birds.

Animal rights groups, however, called on Uggah to make public the results of the investigation into alleged mismanagement and corruption within Perhilitan.

Uggah had said that a special audit unit had been set up to review the rules and procedures of all enforcement agencies under the ministry, which includes Perhilitan.

It is learnt that the unit was formed following a Starprobe report last August featuring notorious wildlife trader Anson Wong, who denied that he was protected but spoke approvingly of a high-ranking Perhi­litan official.

President of Malaysia Animal Rights Society (ROAR) N. Surendran said the ministry must view seriously the report lodged against the official with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

“It is highly improper for someone in a position like the official to be supporting a convicted trafficker by renewing his special permit while he served a sentence for wildlife trafficking in the United States,” he said.