The Associated Press
Friday, March 16, 2007
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Restaurants selling exotic meat in Malaysia are contributing to the extinction of endangered species as the ever-scarcer delicacies fetch steadily higher prices, a news report said Saturday.
The animals that end up on dinner plates at the country's illegally operated restaurants include tigers, bears, pythons, macaques, porcupines, panthers [leopards] and civet cats, the New Straits Times said. Many of these species are nearly extinct.
"The protected species can only be saved if these people change their eating habits," Malaysia's Wildlife Department enforcement division director Misliah Mohamed Basir said, according to the newspaper.
Misliah said only eight exotic animal restaurant owners have been prosecuted in the past five years, according to the report.
Even then, the top fine was 5,000 ringgit (US$1,425; €1,070).
No one has served a jail term even though offenders can be jailed for up to five years, the paper said.
A bowl of bear paw soup can sell for around 850 ringgit (US$243; €182) while a tiger penis — thought to increase sexual virility — can retail for up to 2,000 ringgit (US$570; €428).
Prices have risen because the animals are now harder to obtain, and because customers believe in their medicinal powers.
"With this belief, many restaurateurs are capitalizing by charging exorbitant prices for their meat," Malaysian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals branch director Christine Chin said in the report. "I am sad that there are those who feel the meat has a potent which is a superstition," the report quoted her as saying.
Wildlife department officials could not be immediately contacted for comment.