KUALA LUMPUR - They had set up a meeting at a hotel via social media, hoping to lure a trafficker of illegal wildlife into their trap.
To convince the 35-year-old mastermind of their keen interest in buying a pair of orang utan babies, the Perhilitan officers even flashed him the cash they were carrying.
Their ruse was worth it because the officers nabbed the man and his accomplices and rescued the babies.
Appearing dehydrated but otherwise in good health, the babies Bobby and Citra, which were supposed to end up as pets at a home, are now being cared for in a rescue centre in Perak.
When rescued during the undercover operation on Friday, both orang utan had been kept inside a bag by their captors and were supposed to be sold for a sum of RM40,000.
Peninsular Malaysia Perhilitan enforcement director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said four men were detained during the operation at a hotel in Bandar Bukit Tinggi, Klang.
Abdul Kadir said the mastermind had been active for the past two years, trading in protected species such as python, fox and birds via social media.
"Our officers pretended to be keen buyers and set up a meeting with him at the hotel through Facebook.
"We even showed him some cash to mean business before he led us to the orang utan, both less than a year old," he said here yesterday.
Abdul Kadir said initial investigations showed that the orang utan were smuggled in by sea from Medan, Indonesia, adding that a special permit was required to keep these animals as pets.
"We have a special team to monitor social websites and chanced upon the offer to purchase orang utan. An operation dubbed Ops Taring III was activated to nab the syndicate members," he said.
Abdul Kadir said besides the mastermind, they detained his accomplice, aged 54, and two Indonesians, both 29.
The four suspects would be investigated under the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 for hunting and keeping protected species, importing and exporting protected species without a special permit and abusing wildlife species.
All three offences carry a jail term and a fine.
"We will continue to work closely with Interpol to address cases of transborder wildlife smuggling, including sharing of information.
"It is an offence to trade illegally in wildlife species and stern action could be taken under the laws," he said.