KOTA KINABALU - Protected animals such as clouded leopards and sun bears are being offered on sale through private groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.
These online tamu (market) are trading a wide range of protected animals, birds, leopard cats, slow lorises, turtles and even dolphins.
"So far, we have charged one person in court for trading in the protected clouded leopard," Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said yesterday. (On July 30, a Malaysian was charged in a magistrate' court for possessing a clouded leopard.)
Declining to comment more on the case as it was now pending in the court, he said that various birds and reptiles were offered on such online groups.
One group even claimed to have about 27,000 members.
"It was initially an open group but it is closed now," he said, adding that they had been operating for more than six months.
The department, he said, was monitoring members of the groups.
A clouded leopard could cost RM6,000 (S$2,141) to RM8,000, while pangolins, if sold for the meat, cost about RM80 to RM100 per kilo. Pangolin scales fetch up to RM400 per kilo in the illegal wildlife market.
"We believe that it is for the local market. Some are buying them as pets. It has not yet gone international," he said.
He urged those in possession of any protected species to surrender them to the department immediately and no action would be taken against them.
Those who fail to get proper permits or surrender such protected animals could face up to five years in jail, RM50,000 fine or both under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.
"This (online trade) is a new trend. It is unlike wildlife poaching for bush meat, which is also a threat, but online wildlife trade has become more dangerous and extensive than ever before," he said.