I REFER to the report “Groups shocked over tiger video on British TV” (Feb 23). Shock is an understatement to explain the response to the behaviour of the poachers in the video. The fact that it has been shown on UK national news is very embarrassing for Malaysia. Now, the video has gone global and is on millions of social networking websites and blogs.
Now more than ever, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and National Parks and Wildlife Department must show that they are serious about taking action and throwing the book at poachers. In the absence of strong wildlife protection legislation, the priority is to prosecute the poachers with the maximum penalty available under the current law.
Under Section 64A of the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, anyone who kills a tiger, rhino or clouded leopard will be accorded a higher penalty than other listed wildlife. The Act says “Every person who unlawfully shoots, kills or takes a Sumatran rhinoceros, tiger or a clouded leopard or part thereof is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding RM15,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years”.
Although the monetary fine is paltry compared to the thousands of ringgit of profit the poachers probably received from killing the tiger, the appropriate penalty the prosecutors must ask for each of the poachers is the maximum jail sentence.
I sincerely hope that the judiciary is also sensitive to the seriousness of the crime. Please do not repeat the case a couple of years ago in Kelantan, where a man was fined only RM7000 and sent to jail for half a day for having a tiger carcass in his freezer.
The tiger, which is the nation’s pride and is represented on Malaysia’s coat of arms, should be treated with greater dignity. A deterrent penalty will show that the tiger did not die in vain.
Otherwise, the National Tiger Action Plan remains just that – a plan.