MALAYSIAN authorities have seized wildlife parts worth 500,000 ringgit (US$124,000) and arrested six Vietnamese nationals during a raid in Kuala Lipis, a town located near Taman Negara, the country’s oldest national park.
The confiscated animal parts include two entire tiger skins suspected to have come from Malayan tigers, currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The authorities also seized 10 smaller pieces of tiger skin, a clouded leopard skin, seven bear teeth, 20 bear claws, tails and horns from the antelope-like serow, wild boar teeth, python skin, and 39 kilograms of meat, according to a press release by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
The two complete tiger pelts alone are estimated to be worth 200,000 ringgit (US$50,000) each on the black market.
“From the size of the skins it seems like this was one family of tigers,” Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, director general of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (or Perhilitan), said at a press conference on July 6.
“We estimate around three tigers were killed. We will be checking against camera trap photos of tigers in the area to see if these skins came from animals in the area.”
Perhilitan officials also arrested four men and two women between the ages of 20 and 40, all from Vietnam, in connection with the seized wildlife parts.
The suspects are believed to be part of a poaching gang that primarily targeted tigers, and are now being questioned, Abdul Kabir told reporters. Their alleged modus operandi involved using snares to trap and kill the animals.
“This is a significant seizure and we congratulate Perhilitan on their successful investigations. But this loss is heartbreaking for Malaysia’s wild tigers,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, acting regional director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia, said in the statement.
“We urge the Federal Government to act with urgency and support ongoing efforts to keep Malaysia’s national symbol, as well as the national parks where they roam, free from poachers.”
This article originally appeared on Mongabay.