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Seven ‘most wanted’ elephant poachers arrested in Malaysia

  • The poachers were caught in a joint operation between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Malaysia’s Armed Forces on February 10.
  • During the raid, the authorities seized animal parts worth about $112,300, as well as hunting gear and firearms, including shotguns, machetes, knives, bullets, explosives and firecrackers.
  • During subsequent raids on February 11 and 12, Perhilitan officers seized two elephant tusks, elephant meat, and more weapons and equipment.

On February 10, Malaysian authorities arrested seven of the country’s “most wanted” elephant poachers in Kelantan, Malaysia.

The men, believed to have killed at least 15 Asian elephants over a period of four years, were caught in a joint operation between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Malaysia’s Armed Forces, near the Taman Negara National Park in Gua Musang in Kelantan.

All seven men are locals from the northern state of Kelantan, and are aged between 20 and 50.

During the raid, the authorities seized animal parts worth about $112,300, as well as hunting gear and firearms, including shotguns, machetes, knives, bullets, explosives and firecrackers, local media reported.

“We believe that with this arrest, we have busted a major poaching syndicate in Kelantan that has been actively hunting wild buffaloes, serow, elephants and Sambar deer,” Abdul Kadir, Perhilitan Director General, said in a press conference.

Authorities in Malaysia display some of the weapons seized following the arrest of a suspected poaching gang. Photo courtesy of TRAFFIC.

During subsequent raids on February 11 and 12, Perhilitan officers seized two elephant tusks, elephant meat, and more weapons and equipment.

The seven suspects are being investigated under Malaysia’s Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, one of the four guns found during the raid was unlicensed and the men did not have permits to hunt wildlife.

Kadir told reporters that his department had identified other groups of poachers, and would be taking action against them.

“This is a significant victory for wildlife and we congratulate Perhilitan and the Armed Forces for their efforts under the Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Operation Network programme. We hope the Federal Government continues to see the value of such collaboration and continues to fund it,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia, said in a statement.

“We also urge authorities seriously to look into the source of the explosives and weapons found in this case. It is a sobering reminder of the lengths to which poachers are willing to go to secure their kill,” she added.

While most illegal ivory comes from African elephants, Asian elephants, too, are hunted for ivory in some countries. In December last year, for example, poachers killed two Borneo elephants for ivory in Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Asian elephants are also threatened by habitat loss, increasing conflict with people and illegal capture for the live elephant trade.

“This case highlights how the threat of poaching and illegal wildlife trade should be viewed with a great degree of seriousness by all government agencies concerned with national security,” said Krishnasamy.

Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, poaching and illegal capture. Photo by Udayan Dasgupta.

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