PETALING JAYA - They are young and tech-savvy, and they are the biggest culprits of the online illegal wildlife trade.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) enforcement director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said those arrested were aged 20 and below and that most of them carried out the entire trade via their mobile phones.
"We recently carried out Operasi Taring to combat online illegal wildlife trade," he told a press conference at Perhilitan headquarters.
"The operation ran from Jan 2 to yesterday and seven people were arrested. We also seized several protected species worth around RM80,000 (S$30,000)," he added.
Abdul Kadir said the animals rescued included a bear cub, a civet cat (musang) and a slow loris, a salt water crocodile, juvenile eagles, leopard cats, parrots and turtles.
"They are all protected animals," he said.
"The seized animals will be kept in our facility until they recover from the stress they have been put through. Later, we will release them back in their natural habitats," he said.
Abdul Kadir said the traders usually operated by getting in touch with those living in rural villages and at the edge of forests.
"Once these villagers capture any kind of animal, they will alert the dealers who will then post a picture of the animals on Facebook pages such as Forever Pet, Dinend Sivali and Bany Isz.
"Buyers will then get in touch with the dealers to haggle over the cost of the animal," he said, adding that some animals could cost up to RM8,000 each.
He added that the dealers delivered the animals through PosLaju or delivered them personally.
"We have people from PosLaju who will alert us if they find suspicious packages, but these are hard to trace as they are posted with fake names and addresses.
"We are also working with the police and the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to monitor online dealings," he said.
Abdul Kadir said the seven were "important players" in the syndicate.
"Their arrest has crippled the illegal trade," he said.
In addition to the arrest, the department also seized three vehicles used to carry out the trade.
"Those found to be in possession of the protected wildlife will be charged under the Wildlife Protection Act and can be fined up to RM100,000 or sent to prison for up to three years, or both," he warned.
He advised the public not to buy protected animals from illegal traders, adding that the department would not issue a permit to keep the animal if the source was not legal.
"We also urge those who have any information with regards to such illegal wildlife trades to come forward through our website or our careline at 1300-80-1010 or 1800-88-5151."