Ushar Daniele is a journalist turned producer that recently worked together with a Singaporean production house on a wildlife documentary.
The Dark Web documentary series on Channel NewsAsia explores threats to wildlife in the Malaysian episode ‘Wildlife Clickbait.’
The episode ‘Wildlife Clickbait’ is specific to Malaysia and covers all crime that happens on social media and online that is wildlife related.
“With 60 per cent of Malaysia covered in forest, the deforestation rate as well as poaching and illegal sale of animals is growing every year and it is apparent with the recent campaign by the Water, Land and Natural Resources ministry on the tigers we know that we are going to lose out on our wildlife,” said Ushar.
For this documentary Ushar worked as the Malaysian producer where she wrote the script together with the executive producer in Singapore.
They spoke to many personalities who shared very different sides of the stories.
“We spoke to Traffic which is the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network which is under WWF. In 2016, Traffic released a report called Trading Faces. It is 3 years old but it is a strong report of its own where it showed that there are thousands of people who are online selling and buying animals and these are wildlife that are protected. For example the dusky leaf monkey is a protected animal where you are not allowed to keep it at all,” she said.
Even with a special permit, you are not allowed to keep it but the sale of these monkeys are very rampant.
A search online can find you one for about RM650.
That report by Traffic kickstarted the documentary and then the team started talking to authorities like Perhilitan (Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia) where the difficulty in narrowing down the perpetrators was highlighted as social media is a huge world where one can start any profile incognito.
So it becomes very difficult for authorities to trace them, track them and eventually arrest the person who is selling the animals.
Also the authorities’ hands are tied because the laws in place itself are not strong enough to send them to jail as there is a clause in the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 that once you are arrested, you must be in possession of the animal.
If you don’t the authorities cannot do anything. So it becomes a Catch 22, the authorities know that you are dealing online but it becomes very difficult so with this documentary the team also spoke to people who trade illegally and have brought in all kinds of wildlife that’s not supposed to be sold.
Animals such as black panthers and pig-tailed macaws are protected animals that are shipped from other countries like Indonesia and Thailand.
That insight shed light on loopholes within the borders and authorities.
The authorities are trying their very best to put a halt to this but there is only so much they can do.
“The Water, Land and Resources ministry and Perhilitan are working to amend the act itself in Parliament and this has been mooted December last year where the government decided that we need to keep up with this criminal modus operandi and be able to charge them just for advertising,” said Ushar.
They are working together with stakeholders like Facebook, Instagram, Carousell, Pos Malaysia and any other related bodies that may be used and abused by the perpetrators to ensure that there is a system in place where the moment you upload it online, you are found guilty.
There has been a lot of damage that has been done to our wildlife but it can be controlled and regulated by our authorities through awareness.
“People has (sic) to know that certain plants and certain animals do not belong in the house or your bedroom where you put clothes on it, take cute baby photos of it, it’s not right and it shouldn’t be like that.”
RIMAU is a tiger campaign with Tun Siti Hasmah as the patron.
There are only 200 Malayan tigers left in Malaysia and if nothing is done tigers will soon be extinct.
This documentary was produced by a production house called SORAMedia Pte Ltd and their specialty is crime documentaries and crime storytelling.
Ushar was roped in because of her experience as a crime reporter with Malay Mail previously.
This topic sparked the interest of the producer Kelly Lin and Ushar because it is such a unique topic. For example one can buy a baby otter online.
“I would like to see a change and amendment in the law which protects the (sic) wildlife not just by people selling them online but from any harm that may come their way, poaching, deforestation, culling of their habitat. I want that there is a certain degree of regulation that can be put in place and I can assist and be the voice of this wildlife,” said Ushar.
Animals that are exclusive to Malaysia are the Bornean sun bear, Malayan tiger and dusky leaf monkey.
In Penang, the dusky leaf monkey lives in Batu Ferringhi and forms part of the identity of the island.
The national coat of arms features two Malayan tigers and it is the identity of Malaysia.
Ushar hopes that members of the public can be educated on which animals are legal and which are illegal.
Watch ‘Wildlife Clickbait’ on Channel NewsAsia on 17 Jul 2019, 9PM Singapore time.