By Kanitha Krishasamy
Recent news reports on the arrest of a Johor couple in their 20s who were carrying out a pangolin trafficking business from the trunk of their car is a sad and important example of why illegal wildlife trade is so tough to curb. It says a lot when someone is willing to make an 800 km journey across the country while living out of their car and risking arrest just to traffic in these totally protected animals.
First, it says that the illegal pangolin trade is so lucrative that it’s worth the hazard of a RM 100, 000 fine, a three-year jail term, or both.
It also implies that the likelihood of being apprehended and slapped with a sentence of any consequence is low. That assumption may not be too far from the truth – of the pangolin cases brought to court so far, the stiffest sentence has been the year-long jail term meted out this January to an ex-cop that was busted while trying to smuggle 18 pangolins in his modified car, across the Malaysia-Thailand border.
Finally, this case shows that trading in pangolins is no cheap business. As one of the illegal trade’s most wanted animals, pangolins would have cost buyers a small fortune. In this case, the young couple’s set-up would have had to be bankrolled by someone far more established in trade.
Whatever the case, all these scenarios point to one thing – pangolins don’t stand a chance.
In the decade from 2002 to 2012, news reports show that at least 12,353 pangolins have been seized in Peninsular Malaysia alone. In the region and globally, the trade in pangolins has escalated over the past few years, reaching a point where scientists and conservationists fear for the continued existence of these highly threatened species. More....