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Thread: Illegal animal trade ...

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    Default Illegal animal trade ...

    Endangered creatures for sale
    Illegal animal trade reaps billions yearly

    By CHARLES SEABROOK
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Lawrence Wee Soon Chye, who once advised National Geographic filmmakers with his authoritative knowledge of reptiles, hung his head as a federal judge tongue-lashed him in an Orlando courtroom.

    "Your crimes are reprehensible," said U.S. District Judge John Antoon. "They not only are a form of animal cruelty, they also endanger public health." Antoon wished out loud that he could sentence Chye to a much longer sentence than the 37 months federal guidelines allow.

    Chye, 38, in a prison jumpsuit brilliant as a scarlet macaw, pleaded guilty this month to charges that he smuggled hundreds of endangered and protected creatures to dealers and collectors in the United States last January. His lucrative black market career, likely spawned by his fascination with reptiles as a child in Singapore, was over.

    Tens of thousands of endangered wild creatures from Brazil, Indonesia, Ghana and other countries are being smuggled each year to black markets in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. Traffickers entice native people -- often resourceful children -- to capture coveted animals from rain forests and other wild habitats. A hyacinth macaw bought for $100 from an impoverished Amazon youngster can fetch as much as $10,000 from collectors in the United States and Europe.

    Antoon summed up the consequences of the illegal animal trade: Not only does it threaten many species with extinction and risk despoiling entire natural areas, but it also threatens public health by introducing exotic germs, many of them deadly, to humans.

    Both of this year's novel scourges, monkeypox and SARS, stemmed from contact with wild animals. And West Nile virus may have originated in the United States with an infected smuggled bird.

    It was the rank odor wafting from two boxes shipped from Singapore, boxes labeled "books and magazines," that provoked a U.S. customs inspector at the FedEx hub in Memphis to look inside.

    No books. No magazines. The inspector recoiled at what he saw.

    Numerous reptiles, a few of them dead, packed tightly inside -- 198 Fly River turtles from New Guinea, 25 Indian star tortoises from India, and three Timor monitor lizards -- among the species protected by international law because of their increasing scarcity in the wild. And many of them potential carriers of deadly exotic diseases that threaten to sicken people and other animals in this country.

    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service special agents traced the creatures, worth as much as $400,000 on the black market, to Chye, described as a smooth-talking kingpin in the world of animal smuggling. They nabbed him within hours of his arrival in Orlando, where he planned to set up a temporary headquarters.

    From his compound in Singapore, authorities say, Chye profited as a broker of rare animals to dealers and individual buyers.

    The insatiable demand for exotic pets, from parrots and macaws to pythons and iguanas, is driving the wildlife trade, estimated at $6 billion a year. At the high end are collectors willing to pay thousands of dollars for exceptionally rare animals, like Komodo dragons for $30,000 each and plowshare tortoises at $25,000 each. At the other end are teenagers and apartment dwellers who spend $30 to $75 for animals at pet stores and exotic animal shows and on the Internet.

    "Anything that walks, creeps, crawls or flies has a price on its head," says Mike Elkins, deputy assistant law enforcement supervisor for the Fish & Wildlife Service in Atlanta. Trade in endangered animals is generally illegal under a 30-year-old treaty signed by the United States and 162 other countries. But the treaty is little match for the huge profits and minimal risks that lure smugglers -- whose contraband most often ends up in the United States.

    And most often ends up dead. Authorities figure that as many as 75 percent of the smuggled creatures die on their long, hot, airless journey.

    Interpol, the international police agency, says wildlife smuggling is so pervasive on a global scale, it is surpassed only by the black market in drugs. In many areas, organized gangs, including South American drug cartels and the Russian mafia, have added wildlife smuggling to their other illegitimate activities.

    Putting major traffickers like Chye out of business puts a dent in the illicit trade, but perhaps only temporarily, say wildlife authorities. Other traffickers are eager to fill the void, using a variety of ruthless schemes to get endangered wildlife into the hands of dealers, collectors and exotic pet fanciers.

    Stopping the smugglers in this country is an overwhelming task, Elkins says, since only 92 federal wildlife inspectors are assigned to airports and border crossings nationwide. And preventing the extinction of some species may be impossible.

    "With the loss of habitat and the illegal smuggling of animals for profit and gain, there are many animals that are . . . going to go extinct," says Ernest Mayer, head of special operations for the Fish & Wildlife Service. "So I think from that standpoint we're losing."

    First U.S. stop: Miami

    Most of the black market animals entering the United States arrive by air.

    The hot spot in the Southeast is Miami International, with its connections to South America. Opening cartons there, the airport's five wildlife inspectors routinely find snakes, lizards, tortoises, parrots -- and sometimes baby orangutans.

    In an airport warehouse, inspector Jim Stinebaugh cautiously slits open a large box labeled "Live Frogs."

    "No matter how many times you do this, you get a little antsy," he says. Poisonous snakes are sometimes found inside shipments.

    In this box, Stinebaugh finds layer upon layer of plastic foam cups with lids. Each holds a thumb-size frog, snatched from the wild and shipped from the South American country of Suriname.

    Another box holds dozens of clear plastic containers, each harboring a crawly rose-haired tarantula spider from Chile. "They'll spray you with hairs if you make them mad," Stinebaugh warns.

    This time the animals are legal, he concludes -- headed for pet shops in the United States and Canada.

    As best he can, he checks to see if any endangered species are stashed with the legal animals, a common ploy of wildlife smugglers.

    He is mindful that one smuggling tactic is to pile bags containing water monitors -- aggressive lizards that can be shipped legally -- atop an endangered animal at the bottom of a crate. The smugglers know that most inspectors are reluctant to shove around snapping lizards to look for contraband beneath.

    One of the world's most notorious wildlife smugglers, Keng Liang "Anson" Wong, 44 -- released last month from a federal prison in California after serving six years -- used this method. From his private zoo in Malaysia, he shipped thousands of rare and endangered creatures, mostly reptiles, to collectors in the United States, Japan and Europe.

    To fool airport customs and wildlife inspectors, he bound the rare animals with tape so they couldn't move and stuffed them in burlap bags stapled to the bottom of shipping crates. Many died from the harsh shipping conditions, but Wong stood to profit as long as some survived.

    In Miami, Stinebaugh's boss, Vicky Vina, says that on a good day, inspectors there are able to peek inside about three in every 10 shipments.

    "We get awfully busy," she says. "We often get 60 to 70 wildlife shipments through here in one day."

    Scores of animals -- mostly reptiles -- were smuggled through Miami by Chye, Wong and others.

    Not all smuggled animals come through cargo facilities. Airline passengers hide live creatures in their baggage and clothing. Miami's agents have found tiny marmoset monkeys under hats, parrot chicks and baby snakes in underwear, and little tortoises stuffed in baggy pants.

    Once, when customs inspectors in the Miami terminal noticed a woman's bust wiggling, they found rare parrot chicks stuffed in her bra. More recently, a man's heavy, loose-fitting clothing was a tip-off -- he was trying to smuggle 44 birds through the airport by taping them inside toilet paper tubes and securing the tubes to his legs.

    Sometimes the animals are simply stashed in suitcases.

    In one Argentinian passenger's suitcase, Miami inspectors found 107 chaco tortoises, 102 red-footed tortoises, 76 tartaruga turtles, 20 red Tegu lizards, seven rainbow boa constrictors and five Argentine boa constrictors -- all barred from global trade.

    "Smugglers use every little trick they can muster to stay one step ahead of us," says Jorge Picon, wildlife agent in charge at Miami. "It's a never-ending struggle."

    In business since '97

    Chye, a short, trim man whose dark horn-rimmed glasses give him a professorial look, acknowledged in court documents that he had bought, sold and traded reptiles -- legally and illegally -- since 1997.

    "He had a strong interest in animals and at one point worked for National Geographic as a consultant," said his federal public defender, Stephen Langs. Chye made no statements in court, and Langs refused to let him be interviewed.

    Prosecutors said he shipped hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of protected animals to dealers and collectors in Florida, Massachusetts, California and Washington state. Most were sent via FedEx, labeled as books, magazines, lamps or other merchandise.

    One California collector said Chye sent him an emerald tree monitor, which grows as long as 34 inches, and a yellow boa constrictor in a shipment labeled as "microwave safe" plastic container samples. Both reptiles are protected.

    In August 2002, according to court records, Chye, using the alias Jon Morelia, (Morelia is the genus name for carpet and diamond python snakes) met University of Central Florida business student Michael Barrera at the International Reptile Breeders Exposition in Daytona Beach. Barrera claimed to be an Internet reptile dealer.

    He and Chye agreed to do business together. Chye, in a show of friendship, invited Barrera to Indonesia to go "reptile hunting."

    Barrera was the eventual recipient of the odoriferous shipment of turtles, tortoises and monitor lizards that came through Memphis in January, touching off the investigation of Chye.

    When confronted, Barrera told authorities about several previous illegal shipments between himself and Chye involving hundreds of endangered snakes, lizards and turtles. Several of the reptiles died en route. At one point, he said, Chye offered to send him Komodo dragons, one of the world's most endangered species.

    Barrera has not been charged. He could not be reached for comment for this article. In court papers, he said he had known what he was doing was illegal and that he "had been stupid" to get involved with Morelia.

    A collector in Washington state tipped off investigators that Chye and a business associate were flying from Bangkok, Thailand, to Orlando in June to set up a temporary smuggling operation.

    The associate, Leong Tian Kum, 33, a Bangkok reptile dealer, was arrested with Chye shortly after they landed at Orlando International Airport.

    Kum, aka "Bobby Lee," was charged with money laundering and illegally sending endangered animals to a Wisconsin dealer. Authorities said he shipped pancake tortoises from East Africa, Hermann's tortoises from the Mediterranean rim countries, and Borneo leaf turtles in FedEx packages -- labeled "native crafts."

    Arrested in Waukesha, Wis., was Reid Turowski, 28, owner of Captive Bred Specialties, who was accused of illegally receiving the animals from Lum. Both men face more than 10 years in prison.

    The dead zone

    Many smugglers avoid live animals altogether. They traffic in dead animals, or their parts, fueling a black market that parallels the pet trade -- and adding to the threat to individual animals, species and ecosystems.

    Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport receives relatively few live animals, though it gets plenty of illegal objects made from rare animals -- skins, shawls, carved ivory objects and the like.

    When U.S. authorities find endangered or otherwise illegal animal parts at airports and border crossings, they are sent to the National Wildlife Property Repository near Denver, a facility that bears stark testimony to the size and breadth of this market.

    Shelves are piled high with boots, wallets, purses, briefcases and coats made of the skin of elephants, caimans, cobras, leopards, jaguars and other animals. Bins sag with hair clips, combs and necklaces carved from sea turtle shells. Tons of confiscated elephant ivory occupy other bins. The "Asian Medicine Section" holds black bear gallbladders, dried tiger penises and powders and extracts made of tiger bones and black rhino horns.

    Locked in a cabinet are more than 50 softer-than-silk "shahtoosh" shawls, many seized from an international smuggling ring. The shawls, worth $30,000 each on the black market, are made from the fine hair of endangered Tibetan antelopes, which must be killed before their hair can be harvested.

    Though the warehouse is crammed with confiscated animal products, it's still just a holding facility. Most of the illegal merchandise will end up in schools or museums or being sold at auction.

    "We're constantly turning over our inventory," says Special Agent in Charge Bernadette Atencio. "If we didn't, we'd be stacked up in no time."

    Trade shows popular

    By far the most lucrative side of the wildlife trade is live animals.

    Nearly 7 million U.S. households have a pet bird, and 4 million have a pet snake, iguana or turtle, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Some of the interest comes from people who live in apartments or those with allergies to dogs and cats.

    Particularly unusual animals, however, are attention getters and status symbols.

    The fascination with exotic pets perhaps is most apparent at the more than 400 wild pet expos held around the country each year.

    Typical of those gatherings is the Atlanta Reptile and Exotic Pet Show, held last month at the Gwinnett Gwinnett Civic & Cultural Center. Scores of visitors paid $7 apiece to get in, then stood in line at booth after booth to buy exotic pets.

    A Brazilian rainbow boa, $175. A Goliath bird-eating tarantula, $100. A Bengal cat kitten, $400. A Moluccan cockatoo, $1,500. Emerald tree boa, $275. African spur-thigh tortoise, $225.

    Authorities say Chye and other global wildlife dealers are regulars at some of the bigger shows, making valuable contacts and deals there. Most dealers are believed to be operating legally.

    Most of the animals they offer for sale were likely bred legally in captivity, which authorities say avoids harm to wild populations -- but not in every case.

    The animals may have been snatched illegally from the wild, a cheaper source of inventory for dealers.

    The problem is determining if an animal is captive-bred or smuggled.

    "Once an animal is smuggled in, it's difficult to determine if it's legal or illegal," says Tom Watts-Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney who prosecutes smuggling cases in Miami. "Dealers claim their animals are captive-bred and legal.

    "But if you go to a pet show or a store to buy an exotic pet, you really have no foolproof way of knowing if it's legal or not."

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    some species rarer then tiger

    A total of 48 wild or endangered animals, including snakes, giant spiders, exotic lizards and other reptiles were seized during raids by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) last Wednesday.

    Ms Lye Fong Keng, head of AVA's wildlife regulatory department, told The New Paper yesterday: 'The animals were 31 reptiles, such as snakes, lizards and tortoises, and 17arachnids, such as spiders.

    'These animals are currently being identified at the species level and investigation of the cases is in progress.'

    The New Paper understands that four ball pythons were among the animals confiscated from three locations across the island.





    EXOTIC: Some endangered animals rescued during the
    raid included tarantulas, leopard lizards, Burmese
    star tortoises and ball pythons.
    All the spiders seized were tarantulas, large venomous spiders that are popular in the exotic pet trade.

    Ms Lye said: 'Exotic animals such as primates (monkeys, slow loris), reptiles (snakes, lizards, tortoises), small mammals (sugar gliders, hedgehogs) and invertebrates (scorpions, tarantulas) are not allowed to be kept or sold as pets in Singapore.

    'Presently AVA only allows certain types of animals to be sold in pet shops and kept as pets.'

    These approved pets include dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, chinchillas, terrapins, birds, fish, land hermit crabs, green tree frogs and Malayan box turtles.

    She said the Wild Animals and Birds Act prohibits the keeping of wild animals without a licence from AVA.

    Any person caught keeping wild animals illegally can be fined up to $1,000 per animal. (See report on right.)

    The illegal animals would also be confiscated by AVA.

    Linked to syndicates



    The seized animals are believed to be linked to syndicates of exotic pet traders.

    The AVA said the raids took place in three separate locations, which it did not disclose.

    The New Paper understands that one of these places is in Ang Mo Kio.

    And at least one was a house with a garden, where four Burmese star tortoises were found.

    Also confiscated were two ploughshare tortoises, which are extremely rare and listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

    Mr Haniman Boniran, a former AVA officer who has been monitoring wildlife trade locally for over five years, said: 'It's very important that the authorities clamp down on such trade.'


    He said land tortoises like the ploughshare tortoise, which is from Madagascar in Africa, don't breed very well in captivity, so they are rarer than tigers.

    When The New Paper showed him photos of the confiscated chameleons, he said they too, were from Madagascar.

    He said: 'They are endemic, meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world. Few people have been able to sustain these species in captivity.

    'Usually, most of the reptiles don't make it through the long journey because they are cramped up either in socks or tied up into bundles of clothes, hidden in coats, or stuffed in suitcases. These are the most common ways of smuggling reptiles.'

    Mr Haniman said there had been a recent spate of confiscations in the region, indicating that government agencies are serious in cracking down.

    This latest raid is the biggest in Singapore since 2004, when close to 100 cases of illegal wildlife trade were investigated.


    It is crucial to act fast on reliable information to break this clandestine trade, said Mr Haniman, who added that a recalcitrant might be involved because there were two big raids in Ang Mo Kio in 2004.

    Mr Haniman understands there have also been raids in Indonesia and Malaysia.

    Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, anyone caught with a Cites-listed species can be taken to court and fined no less than $50,000 per species.

    The maximum penalty for smuggling protected wildlife is a $500,000 fine and jail of up to two years.

    AVA's Ms Lye said anyone who possesses and tries to sell any endangered species illegally imported into Singapore also faces the same penalties. This includes websites that sell exotic animals.

    She said AVA views wildlife smuggling as a serious offence and will act against offenders.

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    It began almost innocently. A broken lock on a suitcase moving through Kuala Lumpur International Airport this summer led to an odd discovery: nearly 100 baby boa constrictors, two vipers, and a South American turtle, all hidden inside. It was a fairly modest cache for a wildlife smuggler, but the man who claimed the suitcase was no ordinary criminal. He was Anson Wong Keng Liang, the world's most notorious wildlife trafficker. And instead of a slap on the wrist, which he might reasonably have expected, Wong was about to receive a surprising punishment.

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    More... From the tiny Malaysian island of Penang, in a storefront no larger than your average nail salon, Wong commanded one of the world's largest wildlife trafficking syndicates. Much of the work Wong's company, Sungai Rusa Wildlife, had done since he got into the business three decades ago was above-board: He legally wholesaled tens of thousands of wild reptiles annually, making him the likely source for many of the snakes, lizards, turtles, and frogs on sale in American pet stores. But using a private zoo as a cover, he also offered an astounding array of contraband, including snow leopard pelts, panda bear skins, rhino horns, rare birds, and Komodo dragons. He moved everything from chinchillas to elephants, smuggling critically endangered wildlife from Australia, China, Madagascar, New Zealand, South America, and elsewhere to markets largely in Europe, Japan, and the United States. For a man capable of brokering these kinds of deals, Wong's arrest over a suitcase of boa constrictors was the equivalent of a Mexican narcotraficante getting caught with a few marijuana cigarettes in his pocket.

    Wong's long career beyond the reach of the law offers a window on the illegal wildlife trade and our broken system to combat it. Underfunded law enforcement, government corruption, controversy-shy NGOs, and a feeble international legal framework have yielded few inroads against wildlife syndicates or kingpins like Anson Wong. Wong's arrest and his sentencing in November 2010 provide a lesson on how to change that.

    For More

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Things They Carried
    Scenes from the illegal
    wildlife trade. The illegal wildlife trade is often described in the press as a $10 or even $20 billion-a-year industry, just behind illegal drugs and weapons trafficking in scale. But in truth, no one really knows how big the illegal wildlife trade is; the few serious efforts to quantify it have failed. Certainly the range of life forms on offer -- timber, fish, exotic pets, coral, ivory, skins, supplies for traditional Asian medicines, and on -- represents billions of dollars a year, legal and illegal. China alone consumes vast amounts of endangered species -- freshwater turtles, spiny anteaters, even tigers -- as delicacies or for medicinal purposes, while other countries in Asia and the rest of the world collect them as pets, or make watchbands, scarves, perfume, furniture, and wall ornaments out of them. What makes the illegal trade so lucrative is its minimal risk: Few traffickers are ever caught, fewer still are prosecuted, and those who are convicted generally end up paying fines the size of parking tickets. Almost no one goes to jail. As a result, the illegal wildlife trade may be the world's most profitable form of transnational crime.

    Wong got into the business in the early 1980s, selling exotic animals to zoos and dealers around the world. In the beginning, he told me when I met him at his office on Penang in March 2007, he dealt openly in the ungettable: gorillas, tigers -- "anything," he said, by which he meant "anything rare." (Changes in international and Malaysian law eventually led him to focus on reptiles, which he believed were not as protected as other species.) Wong's techniques mirrored those of narcotics and other traffickers. He paid mules to carry Komodo dragons hidden inside suitcases, and hid endangered Malagasy tortoises at the bottom of legal wildlife shipments. Purchasing vacation packages as cover, he sent men out to poach rare wildlife from breeding facilities in New Zealand. The most important technique Wong and other large-scale smugglers employ, however, is far less exotic than all that. Instead, it has to do with paperwork.

    The primary treaty governing international wildlife trade is the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which classifies wildlife into three groups according to how close to extinction the species is perceived to be. Animals listed in Appendix I, such as tigers and gorillas, are so close to disappearing they are banned from international commercial trade; Appendix II animals may be traded under a permit system; and Appendix III animals are protected by a country with a request that others honor the protection. CITES makes paperwork the key to moving wildlife. Smugglers like Wong scan the globe for countries with weak laws or corrupt law enforcement officials tasked with stamping their animals' documentation, paper that is as much in demand as the animals themselves. Such countries become wildlife laundering pass-through points: animals come in illegally and leave "legally."

    Few places launder as much illegal wildlife as Penang. The island's location and favorable regulatory regime have made it not just a global manufacturing hub for multinational companies such as Dell and Intel, but also a bathtub drain for the world's rare animals. This was largely the work of Wong: "I can get anything here from anywhere," he boasted to an American undercover agent in March 1997. "Nothing can be done to me. I could sell a panda -- and, nothing. As long as I'm here, I'm safe." The key, he explained, was paying off government officials in the customs bureau and, importantly, in the wildlife department, the agency responsible for CITES paperwork.

    Wong's activities finally landed him on the radar of international law enforcement agencies in the early 1990s, when Special Operations, the elite undercover unit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), made him the target of an investigation called Operation Chameleon. Agents set up a reptile importing company outside of San Francisco and a retail operation in Reno, Nevada, and began doing business with Wong. Before long, they discovered Wong not only smuggled rare and endangered reptiles, but also critically endangered birds and mammals. His reach was global.

    To arrest Wong, agents needed a ruse to lure him out of Malaysia. There is a lucrative international black market in bear bile, which is used as a cure-all in traditional Asian medicine. USFWS Special Agent George Morrison, acting undercover, offered Wong a piece of a bear-bile smuggling operation he claimed to be running, on one condition: The two men had to meet in person. Wong agreed, but because he was already wanted in the United States on smuggling charges, he refused to meet there or in Canada. They agreed to go to Mexico instead.

    When Wong stepped off a Japan Airlines flight in Mexico City on September 18, 1998, he was met by Morrison, along with Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Anderson and a team of Mexican federales, who arrested him. It was the culminating moment of Operation Chameleon, which had grown into one of the longest and most successful undercover operations ever undertaken by the USFWS, and one involving authorities in four countries. (Malaysia wasn't one of them; the Americans suspected Wong had had help from someone in his government, and accordingly kept the Malaysian officials in the dark about their work.) Wong fought his extradition from Mexico to the United States for two years, but eventually he gave in.

    In June 2001, Wong was sentenced in California to 71 months in prison, fined $60,000, and banned from exporting to the United States for three years after his release. But the sentence did not stop him. While he was in prison his wife ran his wildlife business, including sales to the United States. When he got out in 2003, Wong returned to Malaysia, grew a pony tail, and went back to work.

    Wong's U.S. conviction had no discernible impact on his ability to operate in Malaysia. To the contrary, his new plan to build a tiger zoo -- a potential front for illicitly trading in big cats -- received funding and land from the Penang government. "He is my good friend," Misliah Mohamad Basir, the wildlife department official directly responsible for policing Wong, told me when I visited her at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur in January 2008. Misliah considered Wong a legitimate businessman, and believed the U.S. authorities had framed him. As proof, she offered inside knowledge of his smuggling: "He never handles animals himself," she told me.

    By the time I caught up with her, Misliah had been promoted from Penang's top wildlife officer -- her job at the time of Anson's arrest -- to deputy director general of PERHILITAN, making her the second-most powerful wildlife official in Malaysia. In fact, in the years since the USFWS's revolutionary sting operation took down Wong, the global wildlife kingpin had only grown more powerful, while the people who brought him to justice had fallen on hard times. Special Operations failed to make another major case after Wong's; today its best agents have given up undercover work -- and the unit, which never constituted more than a handful of agents, is all but defunct. In the media, Wong's 1998 arrest was met with a global thud. International wildlife NGOs operating in Malaysia did nothing to expose the trafficker and his relationship to the wildlife department for fear the department would expel them.

    Things didn't begin to change until January 2010, when National Geographic published a profile I wrote of Wong, detailing his government connection and his new plans to exploit tigers. The outcry by both the public and journalists in the Malaysian press was immediate. (Malaysian newspapers and television are state controlled, which makes it difficult for journalists to criticize the government directly -- but they are free to disclose foreign reporting about Malaysia, such as my story.) In the course of the past year, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment announced a revamp of its wildlife department, promising to rotate senior officers every three years. It stripped the department of key powers and is in the process of transferring Misliah, who is now also under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. While international wildlife NGOs were cautious about causing trouble in Malaysia, they have provided invaluable advice to the country's government, including the parliament, which passed the first overhaul of its wildlife law in nearly four decades this summer.

    As a result, when Wong was caught with a suitcase of boa constrictors, he didn't get away with it. The Malaysian government revoked his business licenses, shut down his zoo, and seized his entire collection of animals, including his Bengal tigers. In November, a judge sentenced him to five years in prison, an unprecedented term for a wildlife trafficker in Malaysia, and a stern sentence for animal smuggling compared to current standards anywhere else in the world.

    The effort to catch Wong -- all 17 years of it -- offers a few important lessons on what it takes to stop a kingpin. Two principles float to the surface. First, where there is long-term, high-volume international wildlife trafficking, there is certain to be one or more government officers who are either complicit in the smuggling or so complacent as to be reasonably considered an accomplice. This was the problem with Operation Chameleon, for all its genius -- any law-enforcement effort that does not take into account the domestic governance problem will fail to yield enduring results. As long as a few countries are willing to bend the rules and fudge some paperwork, it doesn't really matter what everyone else does: A single country, even a single wildlife enforcement official, can undermine the entire global "system" to control trafficking.

    Second, the public in the kingpin's home country is the best weapon against him. No step to Malaysia's unprecedented legal and administrative reforms this year was more important than outcry in Malaysia from concerned citizens. Dozens of articles -- many of them on Malaysian newspapers' front pages -- finally told the story of Operation Chameleon, Wong's Penang operations, and the history of poor management by the country's wildlife department, exposing years of bad policy and official venality.

    Exposure is a critical ingredient for change. Law enforcement, NGOs, and others will find their work magnified and lasting once the public becomes aware of it. Full stories need to be told in the media. In the United States, where wildlife trafficking busts are often treated as humorous news items, that means journalists have to realize there are often criminal syndicates behind those people stopped at airports with exotic animals hidden under their clothes. As Wong himself demonstrated this summer, a man caught with snakes on a plane may be the break authorities need to stop a global trafficker of tigers, rhinos, and more.

    And of course, no fix is forever. Wildlife smugglers, like any other breed of trafficker, obey the laws of supply and demand: As long as there is a market for rare and endangered animals, someone will find out how to get them there. Rising incomes in China, India, and even in Southeast Asia mean more customers for endangered wildlife. In 2009, over 18,000 live animals and more than 267 tons of dead animals and derivative products were seized in law enforcement actions in Southeast Asia alone -- and that appetite won't go away just because Wong temporarily did. It remains to be seen whether Malaysia's reforms this year will take root, and what will happen upon Wong's release. Still, it's all but guaranteed that somewhere in Malaysia or another country willing to look the other way, there are aspiring kingpins working to take over his business.

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...


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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Drifter..you got breed clouded leopard?
    Victoria Concordia Crescit

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
    Drifter..you got breed clouded leopard?
    no.... its not easy to breed them .

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by drifter View Post
    no.... its not easy to breed them .
    saw the documentary on clouded leopard yesterday at BBC..suddenly this question come to mind..really a pity if those animals become extinct..might a well try to breed them.
    Victoria Concordia Crescit

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
    saw the documentary on clouded leopard yesterday at BBC..suddenly this question come to mind..really a pity if those animals become extinct..might a well try to breed them.
    yes...if all those animals activist think that way good liao .

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by drifter View Post
    yes...if all those animals activist think that way good liao .
    Activist mah. Btw..you trade with this Anson wong before?
    Victoria Concordia Crescit

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
    Activist mah. Btw..you trade with this Anson wong before?
    im trying to be as real as i am and as honest as i am in this forum , can i chose not to answer this question ?

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by drifter View Post
    im trying to be as real as i am and as honest as i am in this forum , can i chose not to answer this question ?
    dun be offended.was curious only
    Victoria Concordia Crescit

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
    dun be offended.was curious only
    no i wont ...no worries ...cheers .

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by drifter View Post
    no i wont ...no worries ...cheers .
    btw,is bengal cat expensive?
    Victoria Concordia Crescit

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
    btw,is bengal cat expensive?
    depending on the grade ...just brought a 10k sin$ bengal cat for my xxxx in singapore during last christmas .

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by drifter View Post
    depending on the grade ...just brought a 10k sin$ bengal cat for my xxxx in singapore during last christmas .
    wow.it is really expensive.all my cats are the normal breed.the lifespan of bengal cat quite long?i have a cat that i found and kept since 2001 and still surviving until now
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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
    wow.it is really expensive.all my cats are the normal breed.the lifespan of bengal cat quite long?i have a cat that i found and kept since 2001 and still surviving until now
    life span of bengal cat is just like normal cat . its does not matter whether its a " branded cat " or a normal cat ..its still a life ...please take good care of it .

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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by drifter View Post
    life span of bengal cat is just like normal cat . its does not matter whether its a " branded cat " or a normal cat ..its still a life ...please take good care of it .
    this is true.i would never abuse any pets nor eat them unless im Ramseth..keke.
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    Default Re: Illegal animal trade ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk View Post
    this is true.i would never abuse any pets nor eat them unless im Ramseth..keke.
    ah ram siao lah ...he purposely keep mentioning about dog meat thought he could make dog lover angry .

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