Perhilitan nabs foreign poachers disguised as tourists

27 May 2023 12:05pm
Tents set up by the poachers in the forest. Inset: Mohd Zaki
Tents set up by the poachers in the forest. Inset: Mohd Zaki

Several men who entered the country pretending to be tourists were caught red handed when they were found to be wildlife poachers.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) detected the activity involving foreign nationals who entered the country using a social visit pass and work permit to carry out the illegal activity.

Under the Khazanah Integrated Operations (OBK) by the department together with the General Operations Force (PGA), the foreigners were found to have trespassed the country’s forests and their social visit and work permit passes have expired.

A Sinar Harian reporter also had the opportunity to join the operation for two days.

Among the challenges during the operation were that the skill to identify the direction accurately was needed.

The journey was even more challenging when they had to cross three creeks with rapidly flowing water.

The OBK patrol began by carefully passing through an already damaged suspension bridge to avoid falling into the river.

There was also no reception in the forest and they were “attacked” by leeches.

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Meanwhile, Perhilitan OBK coordinator Mohd Zaki Mohd Rahim said initially, foreigners would trespass into the forest to look for agarwood oil.

However, he said the foreigners had set up traps to catch wild animals to be made as an “exotic” wildlife cuisine and sold in the black market.

"Vietnamese and Cambodians are usually those who commit these types of crimes. They operate in groups.

"We can tell which country they came from based on their clothes. If they are from Vietnam, they wear green uniforms, while Cambodians wear long-sleeved and striped uniforms.

"They are also equipped with sharp tools such as knives and parang," he told Sinar Harian in an exclusive interview when met during the operation at the Sungai Relau National Park in Pahang recently.

An image of a poacher caught on camera at Taman Negara at the East Coast area.
An image of a poacher caught on camera at Taman Negara at the East Coast area.

Zaki said the foreigners will usually stay in the forest for up to three months.

He said the group was believed to have entered the forest using a rarely traveled route only known by certain individuals.

"The main food supply brought by these foreign poachers is rice weighing 40 to 50 kilogrammes," he said.

Zaki said the group of poachers would split up and move in several smaller groups and communicate by leaving markings on the trees in the forest.

"For example, a group that had passed through an area will engrave a sign with certain symbols or words in their national language on a tree. Among the meanings of the symbols detected were referring to direction, location and telecommunications network.

"We found out the meaning after calling a translator," he said.

Zaki said among the animals that were hunted were sun bears, labi-labi (softshell turtle) and tigers.

"These animals that were captured will be slaughtered in the forest. The poachers will then contact the other group members to collect the animals at specific locations.

"We are not ruling out the possibility that locals were also involved in this network of poachers," he said.

Zaki said based on the records, the animals that had been slaughtered will be packed and wrapped in aluminium.

"Among the parts of the wildlife found were sun bear legs, panther fangs, snake bile and labia," he added.

However, he said not all species of animals were hunted for its meat, as there were some hunted for its body parts such as the scales.

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