MALAYSIA SHIFTS FOCUS FROM PIGS
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:
SARIKEI, Malaysia––Pigs are
still killed almost daily as mop-up work
against the deadly Nipah virus continues, but
by the hundreds now instead of the thousands.
Few pigs remain in Malaysia.
More than a million were massacred from
mid-March to mid-May, putting about 1,800
farms out of production, impoverishing an
estimated 300,000 Malaysians whose income
came from the export-oriented pork industry.
Cultural tensions are high because the blow
hit mainly the ethnic Chinese minority; the
Malay majority are mostly Muslims, who
neither eat pork nor work with pigs.
Amid the stresses associated with
the pig-killing came a June 16 recommendation
from Veterinary Research Institute director
Aziz Jamaluddin, DVM, that villages
should kill stray cats and dogs, too.
“So far,” Jamaluddin told the
Malaysian Kennel Association, “we have finished
tests on 95% of the pig farms. Once
these tests are done,” circa July 20, “we will
begin regular testing for the Nipah virus in
cats and dogs to eliminate any possibility”
that it might persist in other domestic hosts.
Nipah virus, killing more than 100
Malaysians during the past nine months, is
believed to have crossed into pigs, dogs, and
possibly some other animals from an as yet
unidentified reservoir among fruit bats.
The possibility of dog massacres
following the pig massacres provoked enough
unrest that Sibu council chair Enick Robert
Lau, who is also a member of the Malaysian
Parliament, was obliged to defend the city’s
dog-killing procedure within days of commencing
enforcement of a long-ignored 1962
dog licensing law. Lau denied that strays
were clubbed, admitted that some had been
shot to death with air rifles, and insisted that
all killing is now done by lethal injection.
Other Malaysian officials preferred
to discuss efforts to enforce a new national
wildlife protection law, adopted in mid-1998.
A flurry of related action began in May,
when the six-year-old Miri Wildlife Garden
folded in Jalan Lusut. The Sarawak National
Parks and Wildlife Department took custody
of more than two dozen members of protected
species who were left behind.
More wildlife seizures followed a
June 12 national conference on compliance
with the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species. During the next month,
authorities said, they confiscated more than
20 gibbons and 100 rare birds.
The crackdown also hit corruption,
as the Penang wildlife department confirmed
an April claim by Consumers Association of
Penang president S.M. Mohd Idris that firefighters
were running a regular traffic in
pythons and monitor lizards. Penang state
fire and rescue department deputy director
Azmi Tammat warned on June 15 that anyone
caught in such dealings would be fired.
The most important measure, however,
came in late June, when the Sarawak
Forest Department began enforcing a ban on
the sale or use of mist nets without a permit.
Permits are to be issued only to bona fide scientific
researchers. The ban is meant to protect
birds and bats, who are the main seeders
and pollinators in the Malaysian rainforest.