KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5, 2015:

The Internet’s anonymity makes it harder to curb online sales of the Indian Star tortoise, which is on the rise in Malaysia.

Which is why Traffic wants more government agencies to assist the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) in its war against the illegal trade.

The wildlife trade monitoring network’s Southeast Asia (Pets and Fashion) programme officer Serene Chng said apart from the anonymity and sheer volume of posts, cyberspace also presented too many variables, which made it difficult to track or prosecute the buyers and sellers.

Perhilitan, she explained, in some cases, may not have the authority to investigate matters online and would require assistance from the police and agencies dealing with cyber crime or e-commerce.

“Trade on the Internet is so vast and fast. Policing it is like trying to pick out a leaf from a large, fast-flowing river and Perhilitan might not have the resources to tackle it alone,” Chng told The Rakyat Post.

She was commenting on a report she co-authored on the rise of the sale of this particular reptile online.

At least 1,023 Indian Star Tortoises were offered for sale in 185 separate advertisements, dating from September 2006 to February 2015.

The Indian Star tortoise is protected under the International Trade of Endangered Species Act 2008 and Wildlife Conservation Act, which prohibits the export, import and requires a permit to own one.

In her research, Chng discovered that some of the traders and buyers were aware that their transactions were illegal as permits were mentioned.

“Some feel they won’t get caught or feel it was still ‘okay’ to buy just one.”

Even in cases where traders claimed the reptile came with a permit, there was no way to guarantee the authenticity of the document.

An individual must buy from a licensed trader and then apply for a permit from Perhilitan to keep the animal.

Traders, Chng stressed, should not be issuing permits to pet owners.

There is also no comfort in the fact that many of the buyers, who Chng said were hobbyists, seemed serious about owning and taking care of the tortoise.

“At the end of the day, it is a crime, even if they know how to take care of wildlife.”

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