ARRESTATION DU PLUS GROS TRAFIQUANT D'ANIMAUX SAUVAGES AU MONDE
Put King Lizard Wong Behind Bars
By Teoh El Sen
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 26:
Notorious animal smuggler "Lizard King" Anson Wong was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Thursday while he was on transit from Penang to Jakarta.
Wong, nicknamed 'Pablo Escobar of the wildlife trade' after the Colombian drug lord, is said to be the biggest global animal dealer.
It is believed that Malaysia Airlines security staff, who had been alerted, detained him after a piece of his luggage was broken. Wong has been remanded until Tuesday.
Some 100 snakes were found in his luggage, including boa constrictors, two rhinoceros vipers and one matamata turtle.
Said to be one of the world's most-wanted smugglers of wild animals, Wong was sentenced to 71 months in jail in the US in 2000 after he pleaded guilty to trafficking charges.
Animal rights groups have demanded the resignations of Natural Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah, and Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) top leaders.
However, Perhilitan, now in charge of investigations, has not commented on the incident, but sources said it is attempting to track Wong's network.
Malaysian Animal Rights Society president N Surendran blamed the ministry and Perhilitan for "allowing" Wong to continue his trade after he was jailed in the US.
"The minister... and all top level Perhilitan officers should resign en bloc," Surendran said.
"This is the biggest embarrassment to our country for allowing the biggest wildlife trafficker on earth to trade freely," he said.
"Malaysia has allowed him to use Penang as a base and although reports were lodged with the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, nothing was done," Surendran said, adding that while Wong was in prison, Perhilitan had allegedly renewed his licence to trade.
"He was allowed to continue trading when he came back. Besides, he was allowed to operate two private zoos which are nothing more than wildlife trafficking hubs," he said.
He said while the US had spent a lot of efforts in the the sting operation, the Perhilitan deputy director-general Misliah Mohamad Basir still signed his licence.
"People high up in Perhilitan are protecting Wong. Now that he has been arrested, we want the fullest force of the law used against him. This man should be put behind bars, he is a danger to international wildlife," Surendran said.
Petpositive president Anthony Thanasayan said he agreed that Douglas and Perhilitan officers should resign.
"Perhilitan is supposed to protect the animals. But why did it allow Wong to continue his animal trade after he was convicted? Perhilitan knew it was dealing with another 'dangerous animal' here," he said.
"Perhilitan officials are just as guilty because they supported him instead of stopping him. They clearly thought they could get away with it. They are not fit to be in those positions, and we should clean Perhilitan up," Anthony said.
He added that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had recently adopted a cat and pronounced that he was an animal lover, and so "it's time all these politicians stop talking and show their love".
Malaysian Animal Welfare Society president Shenaaz Khan also took a swipe at Perhilitan.
"Perhilitan is being suspiciously quiet about this. What it did is like letting a serial rapist work in an all-girls school," she said.