Royal Malaysian Police display the weapons, snares, and other poaching materials during a press conference today. Photo from TRAFFIC.
Authorities in Malaysia busted a poaching gang that is believed to be responsible for the slaughter of an estimated 20 elephants for their tusks over the last decade.
Four suspects, local men between the ages of 40 and 50 years old, were apprehended over the weekend during the three-day operation dubbed Ops Gading in Gerik. They are being held under police custody for seven days.
A joint team from the Royal Malaysian Police and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks also seized several high-powered modified firearms, 255 bullets of various caliber, cash, 13 snares, and animal remains including deer antlers and suspected tiger bones.
The team also located the carcass of a male Asian Elephant, believed to be 30-years-old in Piah Forest, not far from Gerik. The carcass was missing its tusks and a necropsy by the Wildlife Department’s forensics team showed the elephant had died from two gunshot wounds to its head.
Photo of the elephant carcass recovered. Photo from Royal Malaysian Police.
“This is a notorious gang of poachers that the Wildlife Department has been tracking since 2009. We believe the tusks from the elephant have been sold by the group to foreign buyers,” said Police Commissioner Dato’ Seri Zulkifli Abdullah, Director of the Federal Police Internal Security and Public Order Department at a press conference today. “We hope this serves as a lesson to other groups to stop this kind of illegal activity and we will continue to work with Perhilitan to enforce the law.”
Zulkifli also noted that the police, through the Internal Security and Public Order Department would focus at least 20% of the Force’s manpower on addressing environmental crime including wildlife and fisheries.
“This is exactly the kind of collaboration Malaysia needs to bring down the syndicates decimating Malaysia’s wildlife,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia said in a statement following the press conference.
According to the organization, the Royal Malaysian Police issued a release claiming that one suspect admitted during initial investigations that he had just sold a pair of elephant tusks to a middleman in a town at the Malaysian international border.
Police are continuing to work with the Wildlife Department and authorities in a neighboring country to investigate and identify the parties that may have purchased the tusks.
Forests in northern Peninsular Malaysia are often a target of poachers because they are rich with iconic endangered species including tigers, elephants and bears.
This successful operation marks the second elephant poaching gang to be dismantled in Malaysia in a little more than a year. On February 10, 2017, seven men from that group were arrested in the state of Kelantan, which is also located in northern Peninsular Malaysia. Follow-up raids uncovered two elephant tusks, dried elephant meat, and other wildlife parts.