Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pablo Escobar of the wildlife trade of Penang

August 12, 2009
Tell us about the tigers, says exco man

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Government wants the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) to reveal details of the special permit and licences it issued to convicted wildlife trafficker Anson Wong for his two tigers.

Wong’s two Bengal tigers were previously kept at the Bukit Jambul Hibiscus, Orchids and Reptile Farm but have been moved to a private location near the Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve.

They will eventually be housed in a reptile garden in the forest reserve.

State exco member Phee Boon Poh said that since tigers were a protected species, the state government wanted to know how the tigers came about.

“We want to know the origin of Wong’s tigers as they will eventually be placed at the reptile garden which is a state project,” he said.

Phee said Wong had claimed he had authorisation to transfer the tigers, which were moved on July 29, and criticised Perhilitan for its lack of supervision during the relocation.

Wong, dubbed the “Pablo Escobar of the wildlife trade” after the Colombian drug lord, was convicted of trafficking in highly endangered species by the US government in 2001 and sentenced to 71 months in jail.

He spoke exclusively to Starprobe detailing his involvement in the trade.

He was released on parole in 2004, and the 51-year-old businessman now runs an air cargo delivery service in Penang.

Many conservation groups have questioned how Wong acquired his tigers, a totally protected species in the country that has been banned from international trade since 1975.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has stressed that the tiger park project in Relau proposed by the current Pakatan state government has no link to Wong.

Meanwhile, Nik Naizi Husin reports Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup as saying that the Government would never tolerate the trafficking of wildlife.

He said the Government was in the process of amending the present Wildlife Act and this would allow more stringent action against traffickers.

“The amendment process would take time and currently its draft is in the Attorney-General’s office,” he said after launching the Rakan Alam Sekitar programme for Maran Parliamentary Constituency here yesterday.

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