Former police officer sentenced to 15 years, 9 months in jail for illegal possession of 81 pangolins | New Straits Times

Former police officer sentenced to 15 years, 9 months in jail for illegal possession of 81 pangolins | New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Nearly six years after he was arrested for illegally possessing 81 pangolins, former police officer Mohd Sharwandy Sollahudin has been sentenced to one of the longest prison terms for a crime involving the world’s most trafficked mammal.

In August 2018, Sharwandy was arrested for violating the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Last month, he was sentenced to a total of 15 years and nine months in prison on four separate charges related to the illegal possession of juvenile and female pangolins.

However, due to the concurrent sentences, he is only expected to serve six and a half years in prison.

According to Traffic, an organization that advocates for sustainability and nature conservation, particularly in relation to the wildlife trade, the landmark ruling is particularly notable because it imposes a prison sentence only and no fine, setting a strong precedent in the country’s legal battle against wildlife trafficking.

The prison sentences for all four counts together exceed half the maximum allowable sentences, underscoring the seriousness of the crime.

Peninsular Malaysia Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, who played a crucial role in Sharwandy’s arrest and prosecution, stressed the significance of the decision.

“A sentence like this is essential because it sends a clear message: wildlife crimes are taken very seriously,” he said.

“Pangolins are highly valued on the black market, and penalties for traffickers must reflect this to deter future offences,” he added.

The Sharwandy case also highlights ongoing problems with pangolin smuggling in Kedah, a notorious wildlife trafficking hotspot. There have been a series of high-profile arrests involving individuals, including law enforcement officers, involved in pangolin smuggling.

In 2012, a former police officer was jailed for illegal possession and cruelty to pangolins.

He was arrested again in 2014 for similar offences near the Malaysia-Thailand border post at Bukit Kayu Hitam.

In 2018, a retired military officer was arrested at the same checkpoint with 56 pangolins hidden in his car.

The following year, a Malaysian police officer was arrested by Royal Thai Customs officers at a Thai border post with 47 pangolins in his vehicle.

These incidents reflect the continuing challenge posed by pangolin trafficking, particularly in regions where crime control is difficult.

Sharwandy’s illegal activities have a significant impact on the critically endangered Sunda pangolins.

Traffic data reveals that between 2014 and 2023, more than 2,500 Sunda pangolins were seized in over 80 incidents across Malaysia.

The fact that more than two-thirds of the pangolins in Sharwandy’s possession were females or juveniles underscores the profound impact his smuggling network may have had on the species.

Sunda pangolins breed rarely, typically having only one young per year, making the loss of these individuals particularly detrimental to the population.

Sharwandy’s conviction marks a crucial step in the fight against wildlife trafficking in Malaysia. By imposing a lengthy prison sentence, the court has set a precedent that pangolin trafficking will carry serious legal consequences.

“The severity of this sentence reflects the seriousness of wildlife crimes and serves as a warning to those involved in the illegal wildlife trade,” Abdul Kadir said.