“Ask the government” (Anson Wong)

The quote above was from Anson Wong (an infamous Malaysian Wildlife Trafficker) when asked if he was still involved in wildlife trade.  For those of you who don’t know who he is, I would strongly recommend you watch the video below which will give you the low down (and I mean low!).

Malaysia’s wildlife is under threat from a number of sources, but a very immediate problem comes in the form of poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife – this is big business indeed and the enormous amounts of easy money that can made are too much of a temptation for many.

There will always be those who flaunt the law if they can get away with, there will always be the Anson Wongs of this world, the drug traffickers, the arms smugglers, even people who will trade humans beings themselves.  It may be naive to think we can rid ourselves of such criminals, however it is right to be concerned when criminals operate with impunity, seemingly unconcerned by the threat of punishment.

The wildlife trade is exactly that – animals are shipped to the US, Europe, Middle East etc to meet the demand for exotic pets.  Those in the West who buy these animals are equally responsible for the problem, so too are the uneducated people in China who think tiger bones will give them a hard on and are too ignorant to use Viagra.

If we could stamp out the demand for exotic pets or dodgy, traditional medicines (through education and by making it a socially embarrassing thing to do) then the poaching would stop too.  This is the reason that shark fin soup (a traditional dish for Chinese weddings) is becoming less and less evident in Malaysia  – young couples to be married are only too aware of the fact that this is becoming socially unacceptable amongst their peer group.  I have been to a number of weddings where myself and others simply refuse to eat the dish – which is then sent away untouched – an embarrassing moment for everyone.

What I find strange about the poaching problem here is how do the poachers get away with it?  Moving from the city to a rural area I was quickly struck by how little privacy there really is.  Everyone seems to know everyone else’s business.  This is not something unique to the kampongs in Malaysia and will be just as familiar to those living in small rural villages in the UK.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to capture wildlife for the illegal trade: you go off to collect some endangered animal from the forest, trying to do so this without any nosey locals spotting you, then you have to transport the animal and cage out of the forest, put it in a vehicle that you’ve left parked somewhere, store the animals in your backyard until it’s ready to be shipped, take it to an airport, get it though customs (both departure and arrival) and finally you get paid.  How many people along the way would have guessed, or known, or been complicit in your nefarious activities?  How of earth do these people get away with it?…it’s quite a feat!

Here’s a thought: what if a reward were offered for information leading to the successful prosecution of poachers?  Do you think this would solve the problem?  Would information come flooding in?  Would it be acted on? –  or has everyone simply given up hope?  Malaysia’s legislation against these illegal wildlife activities should strike fear into the heart of any would be poacher and yet it continues.  Legislation is one thing, enforcement is another and criminals are always keenly aware of the distinction.

And what do you think Anson Wong meant when he said “Ask the government” – I find myself slightly puzzled by this statement, what on earth was he getting at?