KUCHING: WWF-Malaysia Sarawak Office is working to come up with a set of sentencing guidelines for judges in relation to wildlife crime in Sarawak, said its Head of Conservation Jason Hon.
He said that they have gone to courts and spoken to judges in the state, in what is currently still at an exploratory phase.
“Hopefully with this document coming up we will have proper guidelines to help our judges in passing fair and just decisions on wildlife crime. This has been done in the UK, and it is being applied and use in Sabah courts,” he said at WWF-Malaysia Sarawak luncheon with the media today.
He was asked to comment on the news where two individuals were sentenced to a hefty fine of RM1.4 million for possessing 146 pangolins without licence. Pangolins are protected species in Sarawak.
He believed that the judge must had reason to impose the hefty fine, possibly realising the severity of the offence.
“A proper set of sentencing guidelines would be good. I cannot comment on how the judge came up with the fine of RM1.4 million, as we would need to look at the whole context of wildlife crime in Sarawak before we come up with a figure to work on,” he said.
On when the sentencing guidelines will materialise, he said that the target date is sometime in the middle of this year although they will leave it to the judges to decide.
“The document will be produced and fully owned by the court. We are only helping them through facilitation in resources and drafting the document,” he explained.
Hon strongly urged the public to report to the authorities if they come across any incidents of people selling and trading wildlife.
“Wildlife crime is a serious issue. We are very sure Sarawakians do not consume pangolins. The huge number of pangolins confiscated were destined for foreign markets as they were found on a vessel.
“Why must Sarawak suffer the loss of our pangolins just to feed somewhere else? The public should take note of this and not let it happen. All Sarawakians must play a role in preserving and conserving our natural assets which includes wildlife,” he stressed.
Hon also noted the timely need to review the existing Wildlife Ordinance 1998, as many things have changed since the Ordinance was established.
“For example, nobody had foreseen the sale of wildlife on social media. A lot of these are being used for illegal trading. There is need to take into consideration new developments and new tools that people are using to commit crime on wildlife.
“The nature of punishment needs to be reviewed as well. The penalty is not adequate to deter repeated offences,” he said.
Hon said the review of the Wildlife Ordinance 1998 could work in parallel with the sentencing guidelines so that the state will have strong set of laws to deter future wildlife crimes.
Having said that, he opined that laws are useless if there is no enforcement and hopes that the government will allocate more budget in the future for enforcement training.
On a separate matter of crocodile culling, Hon reminded that the crocodile is still listed as a protected species in Sarawak and that has not changed.
“When the crocodile was down listed from Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix 1 to CITES 2, a miscommunication occurred that told people they can now start trading in and killing crocodile.
“If you read it properly the intention is good somewhere in it will bring economic benefit from a crocodile that was captured and culled, but the message was poor. It became a message to go all-out to get rid of crocodiles,” he said.
As a result of the message was not delivered properly, Hon said there is now a misconception that crocodile is a problematic species.
“We hope to undo this and have better effort in population control and species conservation,” he said.