Thursday, January 10, 2013
DEMAND FOR EXOTIC MEAT
SAHABAT Alam Malaysia (SAM) is pleased to learn that the public is coming forward to lodge complaints with the Wildlife and National Park Department over the sale of exotic wildlife in restaurants. Even though there has been intensification and improvement of government response to the illegal trade in wildlife through the toughening of laws, SAM asks whether enough effort has been made to inform the public who are largely unaware of and often indifferent to how their consumer behaviour contributes to the devastation of wildlife species in the region. Monitoring of captive breeding facilities, zoos and pet shops are often poor, thus facilitating the laundering of illegally sourced wildlife and undermining the capacity of the legal trade in wildlife to curb illegal and unsustainable practices. The extent of unsustainable, environmentally damaging, and illegal practices that still characterise the wildlife trade in Asia and many parts of the world cries out for better forms of regulation and more effective law enforcement. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to the problem and almost every regulatory policy is either difficult to implement or entails difficult trade-offs and dilemmas. The main problem in eating exotic meats has caused a serious threat to wildlife in developing countries. Hunting of wildlilfe is easy with middlemen getting assistance from the orang asli who know the trails of the animals well. For an increasing number of restaurants and home diners, exotic meats are becoming more commonplace. Perhilitan should not only rely on the public for information but should pay particular attention to wildlife facilities and even market places where availability of monitor lizards and others can be sought upon orders. It has to be better informed on these animals because people are eating more of them. Poachers looking to fill orders from restaurants will go the extra mile to obtain those animals listed as endangered and banned in all trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Methods used in capturing and killing the animals for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), for curios, trophies, collections, accessories, furs and pets are always inhumane especially when done on a large commercial scale. Animals are trapped, snared and even bludgeoned to death and body parts removed before the animal is dead. Poachers will stop at nothing inspired by huge profits, widespread corruption, underfunding of enforcement agencies and a lack of poliltical will, which means that bans enacted in the treaty are often ineffective. Increased seizures are not so much evidence of more vigilance by the Government but an indication of a sharp growth in the trade itself. The combination of soaring demand and lax enforcement is leading to a potentially catastrophic situation for the region’s wildlife and, at the current rate, the chances of loss of species is imminent even before anything is known about them or their habitats. Combating the illegal and often shady wildlife trade calls for a great deal of guts, ingenuity and proactive actions, policies and enforcement strategies. S.M. MOHD IDRIS President, SAM.