Saturday February 9, 2013
Failure to fine wildlife trader sparks anger among groups
By ISABELLE LAI
PETALING JAYA: Wildlife trader Mohd Nor Shahrizam Nasir will spend two years in jail for possessing eight tiger skins, 22 bags of tiger bones and nine African elephant tusks.
But the Alor Setar Sessions Court’s verdict has sent a shock wave of disappointment to those fighting against illegal wildlife trade as this was the largest tiger parts seizure so far in Malaysia.
“It took 13 years of hard work and the efforts of many to revise Malaysia’s laws to include a punitive minimum fine for heinous wildlife crimes,” said wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic Southeast Asia’s regional director Dr William Schaedla, who felt the sentence was “disappointing”.
Schaedla said in a statement Traffic also strongly disagreed with the defence who had argued that the crime in question was insignificant because it did not involve loss of life.
Schaedla said this failed to recognise the significance of the arrest, adding that the short jail term and lack of a fine was a “demoralising finale” to what should have been a victory against wildlife crime.
Mohd Nor Shahrizam, 30, was caught with the items when the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) raided his house in Kampung Sungai Dedap, Kota Sarang Semut, last February.
Judge Mohd Rosli Osman sentenced him to a total of 60 months in jail – 24 months each for possession of tiger skins and bones, and 12 months for the tusks.
However, the sentences will run concurrently, meaning he will spend only two years in jail. In addition, no fines were imposed upon Mohd Nor Shahrizam despite the fact that he faced two charges under Section 68(2)(c) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.
The section, pertaining to the hunting of totally protected wildlife without special permit, carries a mandatory fine of at least RM100,000 and up to five years jail.
For possession of the tusks, he was charged under Section 68(1)(b) which carries a fine not exceeding RM100,000 and up to three years jail.
Schaedla expressed “grave concern” and pointed out that the sentence imposed upon Mohd Nor Shahrizam contradicted the provisions of the Act.
“We hope this lapse does not crush the spirit of those authorities who are still working hard to protect Malaysia’s 500 remaining tigers,” he said.
A wildlife prosecution officer in Kedah said they had submitted an appeal for fines to be imposed on Mohd Nor Shahrizam.