I welcome the suggestion of the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanium, that wildlife offenders should be jailed rather than fined, which is ineffective. Malanium recommended stiffer fines and mandatory jail terms for offences such as the killing of protected wildlife species and illegal logging during a workshop on Environmental Protection in Sabah recently.
The learned judge has assured that his office will work closely with the relevant agencies to amend specific legislations to make it mandatory for wildlife offenders be given stiffer punishments.
I hope our federal wildlife enforcement authorities will take note of the development in East Malaysia and take the necessary measures to ensure offenders are not let off the hook due to inherent weakness in our prosecution procedures. There is a lack of seriousness among our enforcement officers and the Judiciary with regard to wildlife trade offences despite international condemnation.
The public feel that the authorities are not doing enough to prosecute offenders while the courts are perceived as being too lenient with these criminals. Perhaps the authorities are unaware of the effects of illegal wildlife trade on biodiversity. Due to this, many offenders are getting away with just a slap on their wrist
As suggested by the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, there is a need to create awareness among judges and magistrates on the seriousness of illegal wildlife trade and its impact on biodiversity. Guidelines on effective sentencing should be at the disposal of judges and magistrates. The courts should view illegal wildlife trade and the killing of protected animals seriously and their judgments should reflect this.
According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund, the global wildlife population has decreased by 52 per cent between 1970 and 2014. Human activities have been identified as the major contributor to this loss.
Our wildlife species will continue to decline if we fail to take drastic measures to stop illegal wildlife activities. Some of our endangered animals are being pushed towards extinction by traffickers who take advantage of poor enforcement and prosecution.