May 20, 2008

Tycoons Buying Endangered Animals As 'Status Symbols'

From The Star Online Malaysia

MIRI: Powerful towkays in Sarawak cities are paying good money to native trappers to capture endangered animals to put on display in their homes as “status symbols.”

Their demand has resulted in an increasingly active black market in exotic wildlife in certain parts of Sarawak, according to information received by environmental-conservation and native rights group Borneo Resources Institute.

Its Sarawak coordinator Raymond Abin told The Star that middlemen pay trappers well to hunt and capture the wild endangered animals alive and unhurt to be sold at high prices to rich men in towns who wish to display the animals in cages and chains.

This new trend only worsens the plight of wild animals already on the protected and endangered list after being hunted for their meat, especially those believed to have medicinal properties, he said.

Among the most sought after exotic animals for display are endangered mammals such as bears, rare monkeys, rare birds and even rare reptiles.

Abin was commenting on The Star’s reports about a sun bear that died after it was kept in a tiny cage for more than six months for display to tourists at a private farm along the Miri-Bintulu Second Coastal Highway recently.

A private farm was said to have a variety of animals including sun bears, macaques and gibbons.

He said the Sarawak Wildlife Department and Sarawak Forestry must find out how the farm owner got the sun bear.

“Unless the link is uncovered and severed by the authorities, this wildlife trade will not stop.

Miri Wildlife Department enforcement chief Abang Arabi Abang Imran said investigations failed to uncover the sun bear’s remains as farm workers refused to disclose what happened.

Sources said yesterday the farm belonged to an influential property developer and the wildlife department officers were afraid to interrogate him.